As France begins to step up its vaccination programme, the government had already announced that appointments could be booked by phone or via the state website sante.fr.
Now, however it has added that Doctolib – the app already in use by millions of people to book regular medical appointments – can also be used to book an appointment at a vaccine centre.
At present the vaccine is only available to certain groups in France – residents and staff in the country's Ehpad nursing homes, medical staff aged 50 or over and – from January 18th – the over 75s.
Doctolib says its vaccination appointments feature will be live from Thursday, which is also the day that over 70s can begin to make appointments.
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Doctolib a été sélectionné comme partenaire officiel de l’Etat pour permettre aux Français de prendre rendez-vous en ligne pour se faire vacciner contre la Covid-19. Nous avons déjà équipé à ce jour 150 centres de vaccination dans toute la France. pic.twitter.com/3lIlovjXBS
— Doctolib (@doctolib) January 12, 2021
The online appointments for vaccines will only be for vaccination centres – which France aims to have 600 of by the end of the month. Doctolib will also be involved in some of the organisation of vaccine centres.
People can also opt to be vaccinated by their usual family doctor, or make an appointment in advance of vaccination with their doctor to discuss any concerns.
France has a strict priority order for when each group gets the vaccine, and at present there is no facility for people not in the priority groups to register in advance.
After a slow and widely-criticised start to the vaccination campaign the government has also simplified the appointment and consent procedure.
After making the appointment via phone or internet, people in eligible groups will have to fill out a health questionnaire and give consent, and then will be given the injection by a doctor or nurse in a vaccination centre.
They will stay in the vaccination centre for 15 minutes afterwards, in case of any side effects, and then go home. The second dose of the vaccination will be given three to six weeks after the first.
Most vaccinations in France are currently being done with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, but the first doses of the Moderna vaccine arrived in France on Monday. They have been prioritised for the eastern areas of the country that are seeing higher-than-average case numbers and high pressure on hospitals.
Doctolib is one of France's most successful start-ups and the smartphone app is used by millions of people to find a doctor or specialist in their area and book appointments.
For newcomers to France it also has a particularly useful feature – listing the languages that each doctor speaks.