[Update October 20 at 10:10 - The flu vaccination campaign has now been brought forward by four days for those who are most vulnerable to the virus.]
The French flu vaccination campaign normally begins in mid-October but I have not yet received an invitation letter. When will I get my vaccine this year and how do I go about it?
The 2021 flu vaccination (vaccin grippe or vaccin antigrippal) campaign will begin on October 26.
After this date, eligible people who have not yet received their Covid vaccine booster can, if they so wish, receive the two vaccinations at the same appointment.
All adults in priority groups should be invited for their flu vaccination by a letter from Assurance maladie containing a voucher which they take to a pharmacy.
Having collected their vaccine, they can then be injected by a healthcare professional of their choice – whether pharmacist, doctor, nurse or midwife – without needing a prescription.
Under-18s with health conditions making them eligible for the vaccine must, on the other hand, consult their doctor and obtain a prescription.
The French Health Ministry has also said that it will be possible to “collect your flu vaccine from the pharmacy and take it to a [Covid vaccination] centre” to receive both doses at the same time.
France’s health service quality regulator, the Haute autorité de santé, has confirmed that having both vaccines – one in each arm – on the same day “does not pose any risk” to patients.
If you are an adult and have not yet received your invitation from Assurance maladie, you can ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist to print you a letter using the professional amelipro portal. Pregnant women can ask their midwives.
Flu vaccinations should be administered 15 days before the flu season begins in order to be effective from the outset of the epidemic, which is normally in November.
Who is eligible?
Last year, the imposition of Covid lockdowns, hygiene and social distancing measures meant that there was no flu outbreak in France. Now that many restrictions have been lifted, health professionals fear that the virus will circulate more readily because far fewer people have immunity.
Vulnerable groups are therefore urged to get the vaccine, which is generally offered automatically to:
- People will chronic health conditions
- Obese people
- Pregnant women
- People whose immune system is suppressed
- People who have contact with babies under 6 months of age and immunosuppressed patients
- Healthcare workers.
These people will have their flu vaccination cost reimbursed by Assurance maladie.
Adults who do not belong to one of these groups can still receive the vaccine if their doctor prescribes it for them, in which case the cost will still be covered partly by Assurance Maladie.
If you do not have a prescription, you can also choose to buy the vaccine from a pharmacy for €6.20-€11.13, depending on the type of vaccine.
How effective is the flu jab?
The efficacy of the flu vaccine varies year on year, depending on the type of flu virus. It also depends on the health and age of the person in question, as well as the amount of time that has passed since they were vaccinated.
Vaccines normally reduce the risk of having to go to the doctor with flu by 40-60%. A 2021 study suggested that adults vaccinated against flu were 26% less likely to be admitted to ICU and 31% less likely to die compared to those who were unvaccinated.
Flu vaccines generally produce an immune response within 14 days of injection.