The pharmacy rollout begins from Monday, March 15th, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced, although the pharmacists’ unions say they are expecting their first deliveries on March 18th or 19th.
Vaccines at the pharmacy are not open to everyone at this stage, as France is still prioritising certain groups.
People aged between 50 and 74 who have an underlying health condition such as diabetes or hypertension, or a BMI or 30 or above, can be vaccinated at the pharmacy. You can find the full list of eligible conditions HERE.
People who have a history of severe allergic reactions, pregnant women and people with blood disorders cannot receive their vaccine at a pharmacy and will have to go to a doctor.
Anyone who has tested positive for Covid in the last three months also cannot be vaccinated, although once the three months has elapsed, people who have previously tested positive only need one dose of the vaccine.
The 50-74 age group can also access the vaccine via their GP, while over 75s or those aged under 50 with very severe medical conditions, such as cancer or transplant patients can access it at vaccine centres or workplace doctors. Pharmacies will be offering only the AstraZeneca vaccine meaning that over 75s – for whom the vaccine is not licensed in France – will have to continue to use vaccine centres which offer the Pfizer BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.
Healthcare workers, emergency workers and domestic and home helps who work with vulnerable groups can access the vaccine via their employer.
The health minister said vaccines would be opened up to the 50-74 group who do not have underlying illnesses by ‘mid April’.
Pharmacy vaccines are by appointment only, you cannot just turn up.
Exactly how appointments can be made is down to the individual pharmacy, usually by phone or in store. Many pharmacies are already operating waiting lists so that people can sign up to be contacted once appointments are available.
There is also an online booking option at www.covidpharma.fr – here you answer a series of questions about your health and age group and can then search the nearest pharmacy to you offering the vaccine. As of Monday, however, not many pharmacies had signed up to the online service, however. This website links to the online prescription website Ordoclic.
You do not need a prescription for a vaccine and, unlike the winter flu vaccination campaign, you do not need to wait until you receive an invitation or a code from Ameli.
One of the major advantages of pharmacies, as well as their accessibility to the majority of the population, is their long opening hours and weekend opening.
Most pharmacies are open on Saturday and some on Sundays too, although appointment times will depend on the number and availability of staff who are qualified to give vaccinations.
Philippe Bessett, head of the pharmacists union Fédération des Syndicats Pharmaceutiques de France said on Tuesday that 20,000 pharmacies would be ready to begin giving injections at a rate of 20 a day (supplies permitting) – potentially adding up to 2 million jabs a week even without weekend appointments.
The first delivery of doses is set to be between 10 and 20 doses per pharmacy, with more deliveries to follow.
Any pharmacy that offers the winter flu vaccine can sign up to the Covid drive, and almost all have done so.
In spite of reports of ‘vaccine hesitancy’ in France, many pharmacies are already reporting long waiting lists of people who have signed up already, so depending on vaccine supplies and the number of pharmacies in your area, there may be a wait to get an appointment.
Appointments to get the second dose are made in the pharmacy once you have received the first dose.
The vaccine itself is free, but the pharmacist’s appointment costs €7.90. This is reimbursed in full for all patients who hold a carte vitale.