‘The pace has picked up’ – France hits first major Covid vaccine target early

France has reached its target of 10 million people getting at least one Covid vaccine injection, one week ahead of schedule.

'The pace has picked up' - France hits first major Covid vaccine target early
France is aiming to vaccinate 10 million people by mid April. Photo: LOIC VENANCE / AFP

Prime Minister Jean Castex announced on Thursday afternoon that the 10 million target – set for mid April – had been reached.

“The pace has picked up for good,” added French government spokesman Gabriel Attal.

He was speaking just after the weekly Defence Council meeting, where President Emmanuel Macron and a selection of ministers discuss which measures, if any, to take to stem the spread of Covid-19.

The government has taken plenty of criticism for France’s slow start in the vaccination programme, but the rollout has sped up significantly over the past few weeks.

Between the week of March 15th and the week of March 29th, Attal said, the number of total vaccine injections increased “by nearly 60 percent” from 1.2 million injections a week to 1.9 million. 

On Wednesday, the total number of injections – first and second doses combined – neared 400,000. A total of 9,797,957 people had received at least one dose since the scheme started.

Overall 3,362,472 people have received both doses and are therefore fully vaccinated.

In order to vaccinate the entire adult population (52 million people) by August, as the government has said it hopes to do, the daily number of injections needs to reach an average of 576,266, according to the Vaccine Tracker website.

EXPLAINED: How to sign up for spare Covid vaccine doses in France

On March 4th, Prime Minister Jean Castex said the government’s target was to vaccinate 10 million people by mid April, 20 million by mid May and 30 million before the summer.

“The vaccine is our direct path to liberty,” Attal said.

The scheme would accelerate further in the coming weeks, he said, with the arrival of new doses and the recent opening of some 30 mass-vaccination centres spread out across the mainland.

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

Following last week’s Defence Council meeting, on March 31st, Macron announced in a live broadcast that France would enter a ‘partial lockdown’ covering the whole country.

This week there will be no government announcement, as it is too early days for the new rules to have had an effect.

However “the measures seem to be working,” Attal said, referring to “encouraging early signs” from the 16 areas that imposed the partial lockdown in mid March.

IN NUMBERS: Are France’s ‘partial lockdown’ measures working?

But, “the virus continues to spread quickly,” he added, saying the situation remained highly worrisome in the country’s strained hospitals.

On Wednesday, hospital intensive care units counted 5,746 Covid-patients in total, up 102 from the day before.

Attal said the total intensive care capacity had risen to 8,000 beds and would reach 10,000 if necessary, by postponing and rescheduling non-Covid procedures. The hospital community have previously warned that this comes at the cost of other patients.

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French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

After the seismic decision of the US Supreme Court on Friday, French MPs are calling for the right to abortion in France to be protected by the constitution.

French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

Lawmakers from French President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party are to propose a parliamentary bill on Saturday that would enshrine the right to abortion in the constitution. 

The move comes after the US Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 “Roe v. Wade” decision on Friday.

“In France we guarantee and advance the rights of women. We protect them,” said Aurore Bergé – the head of Renaissance in the Assemblée nationale and one of the key sponsors of the bill. 

Another co-sponsor, Marie-Pierre Rixain tweeted: “What happens in elsewhere cannot happen in France. We must protect the right to abortion for future generations. 

In 2018 and 2019, Emmanuel Macron’s party – which back then was known as La République en Marche – refused to back bills proposed by left-wing party, La France Insoumise, to enshrine abortion rights into the constitution. 

In a Saturday interview with France Inter, Bergé suggested that the success of Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National during parliamentary elections earlier this month had created a sense of newfound urgency. 

She described the far-right MPs as “fierce opponents of women’s access to abortion” and said it was important “to take no risk” in securing it. 

READ MORE France’s Macron condemns US abortion ruling

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has come out in support of the bill. 

The left-wing opposition block, NUPES, also backs it and had planned to propose an identical piece legislation of its own on Monday. 

Macron is seeking parliamentary allies to pass reforms after his formation lost its majority in legislative elections earlier this month.

The legal timeframe to terminate a pregnancy in France was extended from 12 to 14 weeks in the last legislature.

Changing the constitution requires the National Assembly and Senate to adopt the same text, then a three-fifths majority of parliament sitting in congress. The other option is a referendum.