SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

HEALTH

Are there really 270,000 unclaimed appointments for Covid vaccinations in France?

The French media has flagged up thousands of spare appointments, but among those in eligible groups the biggest complaint is not being able to find an appointment slot.

Are there really 270,000 unclaimed appointments for Covid vaccinations in France?
Vaccine centres in France give thousands of doses a day. Photo: Nicolas Tucat/AFP

Headlines about 270,000 unfilled vaccine appointments in France have prompted two questions from the many millions of people still waiting to be vaccinated – where are these slots and how can I find one?

“It is true that we have a number of appointments that are not being kept. According to the information I have, we should not exaggerate [their number],” prime minister Jean Castex said at on Wednesday.

“There are a certain number of large centres, especially the large metropolitan vaccination centres, which have vaccination slots that remain open,” health minister Olivier Véran also acknowledged on Tuesday.

How many free slots?

The 270,000 figure comes from the website Vite ma Dose ! (Quickly, my dose!) which was set up to help people struggling to find an appointment near them. It is essentially a search site that links to the various different platforms offering appointments and finds the nearest appointment slot based on the user’s postcode.

The site was set up in response to so many people who were eligible for a vaccine but reported finding it hard to book an appointment as there were no free slots near them.

READ ALSO How to sign up for spare vaccine doses in France

Its founder is Guillaume Rozier, the French data scientist behind the Covid Tracker site and he points out that there are some qualifications to the eye-catching 270,000 figure.

First these are available slots for the next 50 days (so until mid June) at centres around the country. There are now several thousand vaccine centres as well as 22,000 pharmacies offering jabs and some GPs, so that could amount to just one free appointment per centre.

Second the number of slots does not necessarily correspond with the number of doses available with, according to Rozier, GPs and pharmacies opening up many slots to be sure of finding patients and then closing them when the doses they have available are taken.

However even with these caveats, he adds that the free slots on the site have increased in recent days, from around 30,000 – 40,000 a fortnight to more like 150,000 to 250,000.

On average, France is now giving around 300,000 vaccines per day.

Deliveries

The increase in free slots corresponds with an increase in deliveries of vaccines to France, including the first part of the extra 7.5 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine supplied to the EU and the first deliveries of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

At the start of the French vaccine programme there was a marked trend of the country having many more doses than it was injecting, which was largely blamed on overly-complicated supply chains.

Since then, vaccine use has caught up with vaccine deliveries, but this may lag again if extra deliveries do not correspond to extra injections given.

The below chart shows deliveries in grey, with doses given in blue (light blue for first doses and dark blue for second doses).

There have also been problems on a local level such as the vaccine centre in Nice which closed early on a Saturday when no-one turned up, local officials say there had been issues in publicising the centre’s opening hours.

There are also reports of hesitancy around the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is now only given to over 55s in France.

Some vaccine centres say they struggle to persuade people to take the AstraZeneca doses but overall the use of AstraZeneca in France is around 75 percent of available doses – lower than Pfizer on 90 percent but comparable to Moderna.

IN NUMBERS How many leftover doses of AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine are there in France?

The health ministry says that some of the ‘spare’ slots are made available at the last minute by centres which have received more doses than anticipated – they can appear to be unclaimed but in fact have only been available for a matter or hours or even minutes.

Eligibility

But reports of vacant slots have lead to calls for the government to allow the vaccine to be opened up to all.

“It’s becoming absurd to refuse vaccinations when there are vaccines available,” Jean-Paul Stahl, professor of infectious and tropical diseases at Grenoble University Hospital, told France Info.

“We had a first stage where the number of doses was limited, and where it was therefore logical to restrict vaccination to the populations most at risk. But now, we’re in the middle of a cumbersome administrative process that continues.

“We persist in sticking to these categories when some people in these categories do not want to be vaccinated, and there are others outside these categories who wish to be vaccinated.”

France has based the phases of its rollout on the risk of developing the most severe forms of Covid – so the highly vulnerable residents of Ehpad nursing homes were the first to become eligible, along with the staff who looked after them, followed gradually by other age groups, people with serious medical conditions and people at high risk of exposure to the virus such as health workers.

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

Of the groups who were eligible in the first stages of the rollout, according to health ministry figures

  • 100 percent of Ehpad residents have now had at least one dose
  • 70 percent of over 75s
  • 70 percent of health workers

For the entire population, 20 percent of people have received at least one dose, rising to 27 percent for the adult population.

And for the moment it seems like the government is sticking with a phased rollout, with health minister Olivier Véran’s call to people take up vaccine slots restricted to those in eligible groups.

There may, however, be an acceleration of the opening up to the next group, which is under 55s with no medical conditions, while Véran has also called on vaccine centres that have unused slots to call in people in younger age groups are subscribe to a platform such as Covid Liste which can send out alerts to people on spare appointments in their area.

Member comments

  1. I would have the AZ vaccine in a heartbeat. Impossible where I live (la Sarthe). Tried through various channels like Doctolib which asked me to confirm with the code which they sent me, only they didn’t.
    My expectations for French tech were already low so this didn’t surprise me that much.

  2. An anecdote.
    I secured confirmed vaccination at Chateau Gontier, about 1hr.45min drive from home. On arrival we were refused vaccination by the local fonctionnaires who said that they were only vaccinating people on local Dr’s lists only. Our printed Doctolib confirmed reservations were rudely ignored and we had to leave. It was a typically sour and nasty ‘fonctionnaire’ experience, dealing with a rude and aggressive people who won’t even listen to what you have to say. One week later via Doctolib I secured confirmed jabs at Poitiers about 1hr 30min drive. I asked the completely charming, polite and helpful staff who were working there and they said they were all volunteers. Incredibly, all spoke excellent English and were delighted to see us. In the huge arena (Poitiers Expo) there were twelve tents for vaccinating people. Only five were in use and the facility was at the most 40 % full. with more than ample parking and other facilities. I could not help but notice that amongst those being vaccinated there was not one single person of colour or of Arab features. Nonetheless we got our Pfizer jab and it all went amazingly smoothly. But there is no point in getting the vaccine if there are huge numbers who don’t get the jab.

  3. My wife and I had to book in different sites mine easily booked with DocoLib Civray Vaccination centre 20 minutes from home, however a couple of weeks later when my wife became eligible I ended up having to use the website “Vite ma Dose” and found doses available in Centre Clinical de Soyaux, Elsan (Angouléme) 1hr 10mins from home. both web sites on line easily used to reserve appointments when they have them ( make it quicker to reserve appointment register first with Doctolib, gets rid of annoying delays in unknown bits needed to reserve an appointment) and they remind you of your forthcoming appointment. – these vaccination centres get fully booked very quickly so speed is needed most times. – Found the volunteers and staff at both centres helpful, Kind and broken English spoken altogether a good feeling. – I have since just had my second dose with the same experience, my wife has to wait for her next in June, and now waits without fear of a bad experience

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

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.

SHOW COMMENTS