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HEALTH

‘Everyone in France to be vaccinated by August’ vows health minister

France is on track to hit its vaccine targets and by August will have distributed the vaccine to everyone who wants it, the health minister said in a TV interview.

'Everyone in France to be vaccinated by August' vows health minister
Health Minister Olivier Véran has laid out a revised vaccine timetable. Photo: AFP

After being widely criticised for the very sluggish start to its Covid-19 vaccination programme, France has picked up the pace in recent weeks.

Its initial target was to have vaccinated 1 million people by the end of January. On Thursday 823,567 people had received the injection so that target is set to be hit by Saturday.

Health Minister Olivier Véran, speaking on TF1's evening news show, has laid out a revised timetable for vaccinations that would see 70 million people vaccinated by the end of August – the population of France is 67,422,421 so that would mean everyone who wanted the vaccine would have had it by the end of the summer.

 

However he stressed that this timetable is dependant on the delivery of vaccines as promised.

“All French people will be vaccinated by the end of August,” told TF1 “on condition that we have the vaccines (…) if they are tested and effective.”

France is part of the EU vaccine-buying scheme in which vaccine doses are allocated to countries based on their populations.

It has been receiving 500,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine per week, with that scheduled to increase to 1 million a week in March. The Moderna vaccine has also started to arrive in France and the Oxford Astra Zeneca is set to follow subject to approval by the European Medicines Agency.

France is rolling out its vaccine programme in a strict order of priority for people at the highest risk of developing the most serious forms of the Covid virus.

At present those eligible to be vaccinated are; residents and staff at Ehpad nursing homes, healthcare workers over the age of 50, anyone over the age of 75 and people with serious health conditions such as cancer and transplant patients. The vaccine is open to anyone who lives in France, not just French citizens.

READ ALSO How to book an appointment for the Covid-19 vaccine

The next category is 65-74 year-olds which is expected to begin in February, although an exact date has not been set.

Véran said that 8 million people in the eligible categories had already booked appointments for the first dose of the vaccine, and it was expected that between 1.3 and 1.4 million people would be vaccinated by the end of January.

The high demand for vaccines among eligible groups has already lead to all appointments slots booking up in some areas.

Véran said that from next week there would be 500,000 new appointment slots available, but that areas that had high demand would also create waiting lists, rather than forcing people to keep calling or trying to book online.

He said: “I asked that by the weekend, we register your details and that we call you back when slots are available.”

The revised vaccination timetable is 

  • 1.3-1.4 million people by the end of January
  • 4 million people by the end of February
  • 9 million by the end of March
  • 20 million by end of April
  • 30 million by end of May
  • 43 million by end of June
  • 57 million by end of July
  • 70 million by the end of August 

The programme will be rolled out in stages to people in priority groups including the over 65s, people with underlying health conditions, healthcare workers, key workers, people in a vulnerable situation such as the homeless with the opening up to people not in priority groups expected by the spring.

The French government had been concerned about historically high levels of vaccine scepticism, with early polls indicating that only 40 percent of people intended to get the vaccine.

However demand seems high among the groups who are eligible so far and Véran said that 80 percent of eligible staff and residents in Ehpads have opted to receive the vaccine.

In total, 60 percent of the population needs to be vaccinated to achieve immunity and polls suggest that young people are more likely to be sceptical of vaccines, but more recent national polls have seen a decrease in scepticism with a majority of people now saying that they intend to be vaccinated.

Asked about 'vaccine passports' for access to travel of certain services, Véran said: “We are not there yet.

“It is a question that may arise in a few months, but we are at the start of the vaccination campaign.”

 

 

 

 

 

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HEALTH

Carte vitale: France to adopt a new ‘biometric’ health card

The French parliament has approved a €20 million project to launch a 'biometric' version of the carte vitale health insurance card.

Carte vitale: France to adopt a new 'biometric' health card

As part of the French government’s package of financial aid for the cost-of-living crisis, €20 million will be set set aside to launch a biometric health card, after an amendment proposed by senators was approved.

Right-wing senators made this measure a “condition” of their support for the financial aid package, according to French left-wing daily Libération, and on Thursday the measure was approved by the Assemblée nationale.

While it sounds quite high tech, the idea is relatively simple, according to centre-right MP Thibault Bazin: the carte vitale would be equipped with a chip that “contains physical characteristics of the insured, such as their fingerprints” which would allow healthcare providers to identify them.

The carte vitale is the card that allows anyone registered in the French health system to be reimbursed for medical costs such as doctor’s appointments, medical procedures and prescriptions. The card is linked to the patient’s bank account so that costs are reimbursed directly into the bank account, usually within a couple of days.

READ ALSO How a carte vitale works and how to get one

According to the centre-right Les Républicains group, the reason for having a ‘biometric’ carte vitale is to fight against welfare fraud.

They say this would have two functions; firstly the biometric data would ensure the card could only be used by the holder, and secondly the chip would allow for instant deactivation if the card was lost of stolen.

Support for the biometric carte vitale has mostly been concentrated with right-wing representatives, however, opponants say that the implementation of the tool would be costly and lengthy.

It would involve replacing at least 65 million cards across France and repurposing them with biometric chips, in addition to taking fingerprints for all people concerned.

Additionally, all healthcare professionals would have to join the new system and be equipped with devices capable of reading fingerprints. 

Left-leaning representatives have also voiced concerns regarding the protection of personal data and whether plans would comply with European regulations for protecting personal data, as the creation of ‘biometric’ carte vitales would inevitably lead to the creation of a centralised biometric database. Additionally, there are concerns regarding whether this sensitive personal information could be exposed to cybercrime, as the health insurance system in France has been targeted by hackers in the past.

Finally, there is concern that the amount of financial loss represented by carte vitale fraud has been overestimated. The true figures are difficult to establish, but fraud related to carte vitale use is only a small part of general welfare fraud, which also covers unemployment benefits and other government subsidy schemes.

The scheme is set to begin in the autumn, but there us no information on how this will be done, and whether the biometric chip will just be added to new cards, or whether existing cards will be replaced with new ones. 

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