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Covid vaccines open for over-55s in France

There will also be a longer gap between first and second injections for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, the health minister confirmed

11 April 2021
A vaccinodrome site entrance. Covid vaccines open for over-55s in FranceVaccinations for all over-55s in France will open from Monday April 12, earlier than planned
By Hannah Thompson

Vaccinations for all over-55s in France will open from Monday April 12, the health minister has said, meaning the next stage of the campaign is starting weeks earlier than planned.

Health Minister Olivier Véran confirmed that all people aged 55 and over would be eligible for a vaccine from Monday April 12.

This means this age group is eligible for a vaccine a week earlier than planned, with the original timetable having been scheduled to offer a jab to all those in the 50-64 age group from April 16 only, with those at-risk set to receive the jab first. 

For some, the date will come a month earlier than planned, with doses originally only scheduled to be available for all those in the 50-64 age group with no extra medical risks from May 15.

On March 31, President Macron said that vaccinations for those aged 50-60 would start on May 15 only. This has now been moved forward for the over-55s.

Read more: The original France Covid vaccine schedule

The updated rollout schedule for over-55s will be possible due to two vaccines; AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson, new doses of which will be delivered and ready to administer in France from Monday.

France is giving the AstraZeneca jab to over-55s only, after a possible link between the vaccine and very rare-but-serious blood clotting issues in younger people.

So far, 86 cases of thrombosis have been identified, out of a total of 25 million people in the EEA and the UK who have received the Covid-19 vaccine.

Read more: French scientists say injection error could explain AstraZeneca issues
Read more: People in France age 55+ to continue AstraZeneca vaccination

The Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine has been authorised for use in France since March 12, but tomorrow will mark the first time it has been used in the country, after “200,000 doses were delivered a week in advance” said the health minister.

 

Longer gap between injections

Mr Véran also said that France will begin to allow longer gaps between first and second injections for the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

Up until now, France has been giving the second dose within 28 days of the first. This is to be extended to 42 days. People will receive a callback message reminding them to get their second jab then.

All the vaccines require two jabs to be effective (except the Johnson & Johnson, which is single dose).

Mr Véran said: “From April 14, for all the first injections, we will offer a callback at 42 days instead of the 28 currently. This will allow us to vaccinate more quickly, without reducing the protection.”

This approach is similar to that taken in the UK, which on December 30, 2020, announced that it would extend the gap between vaccines from three weeks to 12, to enable it to give more people the first jab more quickly. 

The first dose of the vaccines provide considerable protection against severe Covid-19 alone, which is boosted after the second dose.

The effectiveness of the vaccines between first and second doses (at preventing symptomatic disease)*

Effectiveness of the doses varies depending on age of the person receiving the jabs according to the data collected by the different companies during trials. It also depends on how many days it has been since the first dose, with effectiveness varying between vaccines. 

Effectiveness also varies depending on whether it is referring to the prevention of any symptomatic disease, or severe disease only.

Yet, overall the general effectiveness of each is considered as:

  • AstraZeneca: 62% after first dose, 76-90% after second dose
  • Pfizer/BioNTech: 80% after first dose, 95% after second dose
  • Moderna: 92% after first dose, 92-94% after second dose
  • Johnson & Johnson: single dose, 66-72% overall efficiency

Some scientific studies have even found that the effectiveness of the vaccine increases after a longer gap between doses, or at least, that the protection offered from the first dose does not wane over the course of a three-month gap.

The minister also confirmed that the two other vaccines being used in France - the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna - would be available for all over-60s from April 16.

*Data from YaleMedicine.org, BMJ.com, SkyNews

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