France prepares 5-stage plan for Covid-19 vaccination campaign

France's health authority has unveiled its strategy for the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine.

France prepares 5-stage plan for Covid-19 vaccination campaign
Photo: AFP

As countries around the world place bulk orders for the newly-developed Covid-19 vaccines, France's Haut Autorité de Santé health authority has unveiled its recommendation for a 5-stage process for rolling out the vaccine, starting with the most vulnerable.

Here's what we know so far about the French strategy;

Not compulsory

There had been some discussion over whether to make the vaccine compulsory in France, given the country's historically high level of vaccine-scepticism. A poll for the Journal du Dimanche newspaper this weekend found that 59 percent of French people said they do not intend to get vaccinated.

However, President Emmanuel Macron ruled this out in his most recent TV address to the nation, saying plainly: “I will not make the vaccine compulsory”.

Who for?

The strategy outlined by Haute Autorité de Santé creates five groups of people according to their priority level for the vaccine. This is a recommendation and the final decision lies with the government

  • 1. Residents of Ehpads – France's Ehpads (nursing homes) are for people who are both elderly and ill, and therefore extremely vulnerable to Covid-19. Ehpads were very badly hit during the first wave of the virus, with around one third of all Covid-19 deaths occurring in nursing homes. These residents have therefore been made the top priority and will be vaccinated “on arrival of the very first doses” says Haute Autorité de Santé. Staff in Ehpads and high-risk residents of other types of long-term care facility are also included in phase 1.
  • 2. Highest risk groups – phase 2 will concern all over 75s, and anyone in the 65-74 age group who has a chronic illness that makes them vulnerable to Covid, such as heart and lung conditions.
  • 3. Vulnerable people and health workers – the third phase concerns anyone over 50 who has a chronic illness and all health workers and carers.
  • 4. High-risk employment – people working in non-healthcare jobs that pose a high risk of infection, such as public-facing roles, and people in precarious situation such as the homeless.
  • 5. All other adults – the final phase is over 18s who have no underlying health conditions and don't fit into one of the above groups. Children – who tend to get Covid-19 with mild symptoms – are not classed as a priority group.


This is the big question, but at this stage the exact timeframe is not clear as countries scramble to secure adequate stocks of the vaccine, while several vaccines still need to go through further stages of testing and peer-review before they can be released for use.

Macron had initially said he hoped to begin in late December or early January for the most vulnerable groups, but later said that the widespread vaccination campaign will start between April and June 2021.

Haute Autorité de Santé says it has released the priority plan “given the limited number of doses that will be available at the start of the vaccination campaign”.

Both the World Health Organisation and the EU's health authority have said that spring 2021 is a realistic date for the start of widespread vaccination campaign rollouts.


No detail was released on how the vaccine will be given, but it is likely that it will follow a similar pattern to the normal winter flu vaccination campaign where the jabs can be administered by doctors or certain pharmacists.

People who fall into a priority group are sent a voucher or code by health authority Ameli which they then take to their doctor of pharmacist to have the vaccine administered.

The practicalities may depend on which vaccine is used, as the one developed by Pfizer/BioNTech has to be stored at -70C, which presents considerable logistical difficulties outside a hospital environment.



Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


‘Public opinion is ready’ – These French senators want to legalise marijuana

A group of 31 French senators of the Socialist, Green and Republican parties have come together to write a statement calling for the legalisation of marijuana in France.

'Public opinion is ready' - These French senators want to legalise marijuana

France is known for having some of the strictest laws regarding marijuana consumption in Europe – while simultaneously maintaining one of the highest rates of cannabis usage in the EU. 

A group of French senators – coming from the Socialist, Green and centre-right Les Républicains parties – are trying to change those laws, and have come together to call for marijuana to be legalised in France.

The group of 31 co-signed a statement published in French newspaper, Le Monde, on Wednesday, August 10th.

In the statement, the senators promised to launch a ‘consultation process’ to submit a bill to legalise marijuana “in the coming months.”

The proposition was headed by Senator Gilbert-Luc Devinaz, a member of the Socialist Party, and gained support from the party’s leader, Patrick Kanner.

READ MORE: The long and winding road towards changing France’s cannabis laws

A report by the Assemblé Nationale, which was published in May 2021, estimated that nearly 18 million French people (more than 25 percent of the population) had already consumed marijuana, and that an additional 1.5 million consume it regularly.

This, coupled with the 2019 finding that nearly one in two French people (45 percent) said they were in favour of legalisation, according to a survey by the French Observatory of Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT), helped strengthen the senators’ position.

“Public opinion is ready, the legislature must act,” they wrote.

Their senators argue that legalising marijuana in France will allow the authorities to better protect French citizens, saying that legalising would not require “minimising the health impacts of cannabis consumption” but rather would allow regulation similar to “public policies for tobacco, alcohol or gambling.”

For the group of 31 senators, the benefits of legalisation would involve a better control over the “health quality of products consumed,” “curbing trafficking in disadvantaged areas,” developing large-scale prevention plans,” and finally the taxation of cannabis products and redirection of law enforcement resources. Decriminalisation – in their opinion – would not be sufficient as this would simply “deprive authorities the ability to act,” in contrast to legalisation. 

READ MORE: Is France moving towards legalising cannabis for recreational purposes?

“In the long term, new tax revenues would be generated from the cannabis trade and from savings in the justice and police sectors”, which would make it possible to mobilize “significant resources for prevention as well as for rehabilitation and economic development,” wrote the senators.

In France, the conversation around cannabis has evolved in recent years – former Health Minister (and current government spokesman) Olivier Véran said to France Bleu in September 2021 that “countries that have gone towards legalisation have results better than those of France in the last ten years,” adding that he was interested in the potential therapeutic use of cannabis.

Currently, the drug is illegal in France. Previously, it fell under a 1970-law of illicit drug use, making it punishable with up to a year prison and an up to €3,750 fine.

However, in 2020, the government softened the penalties, making it possible for those caught consuming it to opt for an on-the-spot fine of €200.

There is also an ongoing trial involving 3,000 patients to test the impacts of medical marijuana usage, particularly with regard to pain relief.