France opens up Covid vaccines to all over 50s

France from Monday has opened up its Covid vaccine programme to all over 50s while - from Wednesday - people in any age group can book if they can find a spare appointment within the next 24 hours.

France opens up Covid vaccines to all over 50s
All over-50s in France will get access to the vaccine on May 15th. Photo: BERTRAND GUAY / AFP

President Emmanuem Macron announced the acceleration of the programme last week while on a visit to a ‘vaccinedrome’ in Paris.

He announced that all over 50s will be eligible for the vaccine from Monday, May 10th (five days earlier than planned) and said that from Wednesday, May 12th, any appointment that was available on booking platforms such as Doctolib for the following day can be booked by any adult, in order to limit wasted doses and unfilled appointments.

His announcement came shortly after news that the vaccination programme was opened up to 16 and 17-year-olds with serious illnesses.

In a document published on Thursday by the Direction Générale de la Santé, vaccination is opened up immediately to 16 and 17-year-olds suffering from serious illnesses that put them at high risk of developing the most serious forms of Covid, such as transplant patients.

The document stated that they can be vaccinated in a vaccine centre, using the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine.

On Thursday Macron also said he was “absolutely in favour” of a global waiver on patent protection for Covid-19 vaccines, adding his voice to a campaign backed by US President Joe Biden.

Macron’s statement marked a shift for France, which had previously opposed such a move as likely to discourage innovation and argued patents should only be waived as a last resort.

At the same time, the government is also outlining plans for the summer in order to reach its goal of offering a vaccine to all adults who want one by the end of the summer.

“It will be necessary to maintain the effort on vaccination,” a health ministry source told the website of French broadcaster BFM on Wednesday.

The government might increase the number of doses sent to coastal towns and cities, by the mountains and other areas that generally host tourists in the summer, according to the BFM source.

The plan is still in the works and nothing set in stone yet.

France aims to have 20 million first doses injected by mid-May, 30 million by mid-June and all adults who want one given a vaccine by the end of the summer.

This would necessitate keeping daily vaccination rates high during the month of August, when traditionally most public administration in France either closes or operates on a reduced schedule.

READ ALSO How to book an appointment for the Covid vaccine in France

One in four people had on Wednesday received their first dose of the anti-Covid vaccine (31.9 percent of adults), as the public health agency reported a total injection tally of 16.763.053 first doses.

The government looks to further accelerate the vaccination campaign as it eases Covid-restrictions by opening up the scheme to all over-50s in mid-May, before making it accessible to all adults on June 15th. 

IN DETAIL The calendar for reopening France

Vaccination is currently open to all over 55s, and people under 55 who suffer from medical conditions including diabetes, hypertension or a BMI of 30 or above.

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What are the new Covid rules as France scraps its State of Emergency?

France has ended its Covid-19 state of emergency after more than two years - so what does this mean for daily life in France and travel rules?

What are the new Covid rules as France scraps its State of Emergency?

As of August 1st, France has ended its Covid-related state of emergency, which was put into place at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 and was extended several times. Instead the parliament has adopted a bill giving alternative measures in case of a resurgence in the pandemic.

Here is what has changed;

Lockdowns and curfews – The new legislation has taken away the possibility of further lockdowns and curfews without a parliamentary vote.

Although such measures have not been in effect for several months, it was previously possible for the government to implement lockdown measures or a curfew, without needing the agreement of Parliament. 

The vaccine pass – This too has not been in effect for several months, but similar to lockdowns and curfews, the government would need to go through Parliament if it wished to re-instate the vaccine pass.

The health pass – the health pass (giving people the option of showing either a vaccination certificate or a recent negative Covid test) has been required to enter health centres or nursing homes, but this came to an end on August 1st, so there is now no venue in France that requires either a health or vaccine pass.

The scientific council – As of Sunday, July 31st, the scientific council on Covid-19 and the vaccine strategy steering committees have been scrapped and replaced by a new committee to monitor and anticipate health risks. These two bodies, which the government relied on during the Covid-19 pandemic, were dissolved when the State of emergency came into effect.

The new committee will be made up of sixteen scientific or health professionals – yet to be appointed – who will issue opinions on strategies for all types of health risks including infectious diseases of humans and animals, environmental and food pollutants and climate change.

Mask rules – Since May face coverings have face coverings have been ‘recommended‘ rather than ‘required’ on public transport and only remained compulsory in hospitals and other health centres.

Since the end of the state of emergency the government can no longer require masks to be compulsory in health settings, but individual hospital directors, doctors or pharmacies can require masks to be worn.

AP-HP, the public hospitals of Paris, have decided to maintain the requirement to wear a mask in their establishments.

Individual businesses can set dress code standards and require masking on their premises, but general masking in public spaces is no longer required.

However, obligatory masking “could be made compulsory again in the form of ministerial or prefectural decrees, depending on the evolution or degradation of the health situation; if a new problematic variant of the virus is identified,” according to RFI

TravelThe end of the State of emergency means the end of all Covid-related restrictions at the border.

Since August 1st travellers to France – whichever country they are travelling from – no longer need to provide either proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test, an attestation that they are free of Covid symptoms or any justification for their journey. Basically, travel goes back to how it was before the pandemic.

However, the government has retained the right to reinstate compulsory Covid-19 testing at the border if the health situation changes, for example the emergence of a concerning new variant.

This can be done if the Health Minister has reported its necessity and “after the opinion of the competent scientific authority” and does not require a debate in parliament to impose.

The government will maintain the ability to bring in extra testing for those entering or leaving France until March 31, 2023. 

Covid-19 testing – Covid-19 tests will remain free for residents of France who are registered in the French health system and have completed their vaccine scheme. Visitors to France, those not registered in the French system or the unvaccinated will have to pay for a test – prices are capped at €22 for an antigen test or €54 for a PCR test. Tests remain widely available at pharmacies, medical laboratories and health centres.

Self-isolation – if you test positive for Covid you are still obliged to self-isolate. The length of your isolation period depends on your vaccine status and when you test negative for the virus – full details here.

Arrêt maladie – if you test positive for Covid and need time off work you can obtain an ‘arrêt maladie‘ via the online Ameli platform, the MSA, or your healthcare provider. In some situations, this may also apply to you if you are the parent of a child under 16 years of age or of a person with a disability who must isolate due to Covid-19.

Vaccines – Vaccination against Covid-19 remains free and open to all adults without prior condition.

For a fourth dose (or second booster), those eligible include: adults over the age of 60, residents of nursing homes and longterm care units, immunocompromised persons, adults aged 18 to 60 years who are identified as being at risk for severe Covid-19, pregnant women, starting in the 1st trimester of pregnancy, and finally people living with or in regular contact with vulnerable or immunocompromised individuals. 

For those aged 80 and over, a telephone number remains available to help arrange for their vaccination at home or at a health professional’s office.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Who qualifies for a second Covid vaccine booster in France?

Tracing tools – Several of these resources will remain in place until next year. First, ‘Contact Covid,’ which monitors and supports infected people, as well as those they have come into contact with, will be extended until January 31, 2023. The national screening information system (Sidep), which centralises all test results, has been also extended, in this case until June 30, 2023.