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French Covid vaccine programme reaches milestone with 1 million people receiving both doses

The French Covid vaccine programme has hit a milestone with 1 million people fully vaccinated with both doses - so does this mean that the problems of the slow start are behind us?

French Covid vaccine programme reaches milestone with 1 million people receiving both doses
A woman is vaccinated in a health centre in the Paris suburbs. Photo: AFP

Let's start with the good news, on Thursday France's vaccine programme hit a milestone with 1 million people now fully vaccinated, having received both doses of the vaccine.

 

In total 2,427,808  people have received their first injection and 1,040,733 have received both – representing 1.5 per cent of the population.

On the chart below, dark green represents both doses and pale green the first dose only. The red squares represent the number of people who need to be vaccinated for the country to reach immunity – so once all the red squares turn dark green, France is protected.

 

Of the injections given, unsurprisingly the largest proportion went to the over 80s, since France began its vaccine programme in Ehpad nursing homes before expanding to over 75s in the community and then health workers.

 

In total 41.9 percent of vaccines went to the over 80s and 19 percent to the 75-79 age group.

Sixty percent of the injections so far have been given to women – probably reflecting the fact that women on average live longer so there are more of them in the over 80s group.

The greater Paris Île-de-France region – the country's most densely populated – has seen the highest number of injections so far with 107,061 Franciliens fully vaccinated and 329,939 having had their first injection.

The south-west region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine, which is a popular retirement spot, had the next highest number with 90,745 people fully vaccinated and 262,925 having had their first dose.

The Direction générale de la Santé says it is on course to have administered 4.3 million injections – of which 2.6 million are first injections – by the end of February.

In less good news, however, plenty of problems remain.

France is lagging behind many of its neighbours, with the UK, Germany, Italy all having given more doses.

In terms of the number of people fully vaccinated, France is actually ahead of the UK, which has only given 558,577 second doses to France's 1 million. Looking at the first dose figures, however, and France is trailing miles behind the UK's 15 million first jabs.

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

 

This is as a result of the country's differing policies – the UK has decided to delay the second dose by up to 12 weeks to give as many first doses as possible, while France is sticking to the manufacturer's recommendation of 3-4 weeks between doses, which has resulted in fewer people getting the first dose.

However a country with a comparable policy to France such as Germany is still ahead with 2.9 million first doses and 1.5 million second doses.

Then there are the problems on a local level, with many people in eligible groups reporting difficulty in getting an appointment at their local vaccine centre.

When we asked readers of The Local for their experiences, around half said they had been able to secure an appointment easily, the other half said it was very difficult and in many cases they were still waiting.

READ ALSO Unanswered phones and long waits – getting a Covid vaccination in France

Currently the following groups are eligible for a vaccine in France

  • Residents and staff in Ehpad nursing homes
  • Over 75s
  • Under 75s with serious health conditions (eg cancer or transplant patients)
  • Healthcare workers, emergency workers and home helps who work with vulnerable groups
  • People aged 50-64 who have an underlying health condition such as diabetes (from February 25th)

The next category to open up will be the 65-74 year-old group, which will be in March although as yet there is no date for that.

The other issue France has to contend with is vaccine scepticism.

More recent polls show this has fallen a little since the beginning of January, when only 40 percent of people were telling pollsters that they would definitely be vaccinated, but still a concern.

ANALYSIS How worried does France need to be about its vaccine sceptics?

At present most criticism is from people who want a vaccination and cannot get one, but in general those in high-risk groups are less likely to be sceptical than younger people who are in good health.

The programme is set to open up to the general population in later spring/early summer, which is when the true level of vaccine scepticism will become apparent. 

 

 

 

 

Member comments

  1. Teachers should be included in the key worker group (health care workers etc). They are expected to keep schools open so that parents can go to work yet are placed at risk of contracting the virus from the many children they are exposed to, the lack of hygiene supplies in schools and the absence of censure of parents who send their children to school despite them exhibiting signs of fever, coughs etc.

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COVID-19

Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

With a sharp rise in reported cases in recent weeks, France appears to be in the middle of a new wave of Covid infections - so what measures are the government taking to control it?

Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

Recorded case numbers in France are now over 50,000 a week, and have been since the beginning of June – this is a long way short of the 350,000 weekly cases recorded in January but still the highest since May and representing a steady an increase of 57 percent on the previous week.

Hospital admissions are also on the rise – standing at 707 admissions on Friday, June 24th compared to 400 daily admissions just two weeks earlier.

So what is the French government doing about it?

Since March, almost all Covid-related restrictions have been lifted in France – the health pass is no longer required for everyday activities such as visiting a bar or going to the gym and face masks are now merely advised in all indoor locations. Only hospitals and other health establishments such as nursing homes still have mandatory rules on face masks and health passes.

For international travel, fully vaccinated arrivals from most countries – including the UK, US and the whole of the EU – need only to show proof of vaccination, while unvaccinated travellers need to show proof of a recent negative Covid test – full details HERE.

Health pass

A proposed bill from the health ministry that was leaked to French media talks about re-imposing some form of pass sanitaire (health pass) to get numbers under control.

Some caveats to add here is that the document is only a proposal at this stage and the government has explicitly rules out – for the moment – reintroducing the vaccine pass. The health pass can be used to show either proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid test, so it is less restrictive for the unvaccinated.

The document suggests re-introducing a health pass for travel – both to and from France – not for everyday activities like going to a café.

Testing and contact tracing

The bill also proposes extending the software involved in contact tracing and the Covid testing programme until March 2023, although this is described as a ‘precaution’.

Testing remains available on a walk-in basis at most French pharmacies and by appointment at health centres and medical labs. Tests are free for fully-vaccinated residents of France who have a carte vitale. Those are only visiting France, who are not registered in the French health system or who are not vaccinated have to pay – prices are capped at €22 for an antigen test and €54 for a PCR test.

READ ALSO How tourists in France can get a Covid test

Masks

The government’s Covid vaccine adviser Alain Fischer told France Info that he was in favour of making face masks compulsory on public transport again and said it is ‘being discussed” at government level.

At present masks are not required, but are recommended, especially on busy services where it is impossible to practice social distancing.

Epidemiologist Pascal Crépey said: “In crowded trains, the risk of being in the presence of infected people is high. It would be a good idea for the population to wear the mask, to protect especially the most fragile and avoid massive infection rates.”

Local measures

French local authorities also have the power to impose certain types of restrictions if their area has a particularly high rate of infections.

At present, none have done so, but Nice mayor Christian Estrosi has spoken in favour of possibly bringing back the vaccine pass over the summer.

Second booster shots

A second booster shot of the Covid vaccine is now available to all over 60s and anyone who has a long-term medical condition or who is otherwise at risk from Covid.

It is recommended that the government increase public messaging advising those in high risk groups to get the second booster shot. The medical regular HAS has advised combining second booster shots with the seasonal flu vaccine campaign in September and October.

France is not, at present, considering widening the campaign to the entire popular, but the EU’s vaccine commissioner Thierry Breton says that if necessary, there would be enough doses to cover the whole population.

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