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HEALTH

French health authority says people who have had Covid only need one vaccine dose

France on Friday recommended that people who have already recovered from Covid-19 infection receive a single vaccine dose, becoming the first country to issue such advice.

French health authority says people who have had Covid only need one vaccine dose
Photo: AFP

The Haut Autorité de Santé on Friday released an opinion that said that people who had previously been infected with Covid-19 develop an immune response similar to that bestowed by a vaccine dose, and that a single dose after infection would likely suffice.

 

The HAS is an advisory body, so the government now needs to decide whether to incorporate this advice into its official vaccine policy.

All three Covid-19 vaccines approved for use in France – Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca – are administered in the form of two doses, delivered several weeks apart.

This is because clinical trials showed that immunity against the disease was significantly higher after individuals received two shots.

The HAS's published opinion said: “A single vaccine dose will also play the role of reminding” the patient's immune system how to fight Covid-19.

The authority recommended a gap of between three and six months after infection before individuals who had recovered from Covid-19 receive a jab.   

“At the moment no country has clearly positioned itself in terms of a sole vaccination dose for people who have already contracted Covid-19,” it said.

France has accelerated its vaccination programme in recent weeks but it is still in its infancy.

As of Thursday, over 2.1 million people had received at least one vaccine dose, with almost 535,800 having already received two. France has decided that it will not delay the gap between the first and second dose beyond the manufacturer's recommendation of between three and four weeks, as some countries have done.

IN NUMBERS Why France needs to drastically speed up its vaccine programme 

At least 3.4 million people have had confirmed Covid-19 infections in France, although there are likely to have been far more given the relative lack of accessible testing during the pandemic's first wave.

Two recent US studies suggest that a single vaccine dose may work in individuals who have already recovered from Covid-19.

One paper said that immunity in individuals who had had Covid-19 and then received a single vaccine dose “is equal to or even exceeds” that of people who have not had Covid-19 but received two vaccine doses.

A vaccine still in development by Johnson & Johnson works with a single dose, but it is yet to receive emergency use authorisation from EU and US regulators.

 

 

 

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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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