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HEALTH

French health authorities to begin phoning unvaccinated over-75s

As the French vaccination programme opens up to other age groups, health authorities will from this week begin calling the roughly 3 million over-75s who have not yet been vaccinated.

French health authorities to begin phoning unvaccinated over-75s
Over 75s will get a phone call inviting them to be vaccinated. Photo: Thomas Samson/AFP

In an interview with Le Parisien, Thomas Fantôme, the head of France’s Assurance maladie health system, revealed the plan to begin calling people who have not yet been vaccinated in the over-75 age group.

This group has been eligible for the vaccine since February, but many people have reported great difficulty in getting an appointment slot in their local area, with readers of The Local reporting unanswered phones and online booking systems that show all local centres as full.

Fantôme said that from next week a new phone number would be set up dedicated to the over 75s to help them find an appointment slot.

READ ALSO How to book an appointment for the Covid vaccine

At the same time, Assurance maladie agents will begin calling people who have not yet been vaccinated to invite them to an appointment.

He said: “Our aim is to not leave them by the wayside.

“In addition to their individual efforts, their vaccination will be based on two pillars: on the one hand, the setting up of a dedicated telephone number, which they will be able to call from next week to obtain an appointment. And on the other hand, by cross-referencing the data available to Assurance maladie, we will identify those who have not yet been vaccinated, and call them to suggest that they do so, as the President suggested.”

READ ALSO When will I be eligible for the Covid vaccine in France?

Calls have already begun to some over-75s in areas with high numbers of cases such as Seine-Saint-Denis and Val d’Oise.

Fantôme said: “Their reception is very positive and they are often surprised.

“They sometimes tell us that they had intended to be vaccinated, but later, or that they gave up because of a lack of available slots. Our call often triggers a response, and we get very few refusals.”

He added that the purpose of the calls would not be persuade people who did not want to be vaccinated, but only to help people who did want an appointment to find one.

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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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