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HEALTH

Covid-19 vaccine ‘will not be required to access public transport’ says French health minister

The French government has postponed a controversial draft law proposal that opposition politicians said amounted to forcing people to get the Covid-19 vaccine in order to access certain services.

Covid-19 vaccine 'will not be required to access public transport' says French health minister
Masked commuters at the Paris metro. Photo:AFP

French Health Minister Olivier Véran rejected the opposition's claims as misleading.

“The coronavirus vaccine will not be compulsory, neither to take public transport, nor to enter a restaurant, and obviously not to go to work,” Véran said in a TV interview with TF1 on Tuesday evening.

Insisting that the law proposal had “nothing to do with the current health crisis” and that the law was only a “toolbox” in order to deal with future health crises, the health minister said the text had been postponed for “several months”.

“The government will not put this text to parliament before this crisis is over,” he said, adding that the French National Assembly would vote on the law in April.

“It is not withdrawn . . . but it is not the moment to present it to parliament,” Véran said.

Prime Minister Jean Castex on Monday got his cabinet's backing for the now postponed bill, which is designed to provide a legal framework for dealing with health crises.

According to the text, a negative test or proof of a “preventative treatment, including the administration of a vaccine” could be required for people to be granted “access to transport or to some locations, as well as certain activities”.

 

According to opinion polls, 55 percent of French people say they will not get a Covid-19 shot, one of the highest rates in the European Union. 

The government's vaccination campaign is to start on Sunday. 

President Emmanuel Macron has promised that coronavirus vaccinations, though strongly recommended, will not be mandatory. 

Véran reiterated this promise on Tuesday.

READ ALSO EXPLAINED: Why is France debating making the Covid-19 vaccine compulsory?

But opposition politicians condemned the draft law, with Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right Rassemblement National (RN) party, calling it an “essentially totalitarian” measure. 

“In a backhanded way, this bill does not aim to make vaccinations mandatory, but will prevent anybody who doesn't comply from having a social life,” she said.

Guillaume Peltier, deputy leader of the centre-right Les Républicains (LR) party, said it was “inconceivable” that the government should be allowed to “get all the power to suspend our freedoms without parliamentary control.”

Centrist senator Nathalie Goulet said the draft was “an attack on public freedoms”, while the far-left deputy Alexis Corbière said “we could a least have a collective discussion if the idea is to limit our public liberties.”

In response, Public Sector Minister Amelie de Montchalin said the bill was “not at all made to create exceptional powers for the government” or “create a health state.”

She said there would be a debate about the bill during which “everything that needs clarification will be clarified.”

The EU gave the green light for a Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine on Monday, paving the way for the first inoculations to start across 27 countries just after Christmas.

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HEALTH

Children under five eligible for Covid-19 vaccinations in France

French health authorities have launched a campaign to vaccinate children under the age of five in certain high-risk groups against the Covid-19 virus.

Children under five eligible for Covid-19 vaccinations in France

According to reporting by Le Parisien, France’s public health body (the DGS) sent a message out to health professionals on Thursday night informing them that they had launched the campaign for children under the age of five in certain risk categories to be vaccinated against the virus.

The French medical regulator (HAS) had previously recommended that certain groups of children in certain high-risk groups – such as those with serious illnesses or those living with an immunocompromised parent – be vaccinated from the age of six months.

Previously those children could be vaccinated in hospitals and specialised centres, but starting on Monday, January 23rd, children under the age of five who are eligible for vaccination against Covid-19 will be able to be vaccinated by a doctor, midwife or nurse.

READ MORE: Paxlovid and vaccines: The latest Covid advice from the French government

The HAS released a list of conditions that would make children under the age of five eligible for vaccination, including;

  • Liver disease
  • Heart and respiratory diseases (including severe asthma requiring continuous treatment)
  • Neurological diseases
  • Primary or drug-induced immunodeficiency
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Hematologic malignancies
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Trisomy 2
  • Children who live in the same environment as an immunocompromised person

France’s decision to authorise vaccination for certain young children came after several other countries, such as the United States did so.

According to L’Obs, babies “under one year old accounted for 70 percent of hospitalisations for children aged 0-17 years old and 84 percent of critical care admissions.”

When authorising children under five for vaccinations, the HAS noted that so far “no deaths, cases of myocarditis or pericarditis have been reported in the various studies conducted.”

How to vaccinate your child 

First, you must verify whether your child under the age of five is eligible for the vaccine by checking the list of high-risk groups above.

Next, you should consult your child’s doctor, as a prescription will be necessary for them to be vaccinated. 

Both parents must agree to the child being vaccinated by filling out the authorisation form HERE, according to the DGS. 

The vaccination schedule will differ for children under the age of five. They will be given a lower dose of the vaccine – specifically the Pfizer-BioNTech shot – and it will be delivered in three total injections, rather than two. 

The interval between the first two will be three weeks, and the interval between the second and third jabs will be at least eight weeks.

Even if the child has had Covid, “all three doses should be given, to ensure optimal protection,” the DGS told medical professionals, according to Le Parisien. However, if the child becomes sick with Covid-19 during the vaccination schedule, it can be revised so that there is an interval of at least three months from infection and vaccination.

According to the HAS, citing data from a clinical trial conducted in the first half of 2022, three doses of the vaccine was 80.3 percent effective against symptomatic infections “in all age groups from 6 months to 4 years with no history of infection.”

What about kids over the age 5?

All children aged five to 11 have been eligible for Covid-19 vaccination since December 2021 in France (children aged 11 and over were already eligible). Despite this eligibility, only about five percent of children in this group have been vaccinated, giving France one of the lowest levels of vaccination for young children in Europe. 

While Covid-19 represents a greater risk for older children and adults, according to L’Obs, severe illness and death can also occur in children. 

READ MORE: Can anybody in France now get the latest Covid booster vaccine?

As of January 20th, the French government still required that children aged five to 11 have both parents or guardians (if both have legal parental authority) provide authorisation prior to vaccination against Covid-19.

Prior to being vaccinated, there will be a pre-vaccination medical interview (on-site) where the medical professional will ensure that the child does not have any conditions, answer any questions the child or parents may have, and finally provide a prescription for the vaccination.

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