France opens Covid vaccines to all over 18s

From Monday, all adults living in France are eligible for the Covid vaccine as the country opens up the programme to all age groups.

France opens Covid vaccines to all over 18s
Health minister Olivier Véran, shown vaccinating a patient, has announced the opening up of appointments to all. Photo: Thomas Padilla/AFP

It was announced last week that France was accelerating its vaccine calendar, and all over 18s are eligible from Monday, May 31st.

In the French government’s original vaccination calendar, under 50s were not eligible for a shot until June 15th.

But the programme has been speeding up in recent weeks and appointments were first opened to under 50s with a health condition, then to anyone who could find a last-minute appointment and finally to everyone from May 31st.

READ ALSO How to book an appointment for the Covid vaccine

Announcing the change, prime minister Jean Castex said France was in a position to ramp up the campaign as it “will receive a lot of doses between now and the end of June, so we must have the highest level of vaccination possible.”

Reflecting on the latest health situation, he said: “We are more than ever on the right track, the indicators continue to improve.”

At present, France’s vaccine programme is for over 18s, although 16 and 17-year-olds with severe health conditions including cancer or transplant patients can also access vaccines.

The opening up of last-minute slots to under 50s has seen a big increase in vaccinations, especially in cities or for people who live near one of the large ‘vaccinedromes’.

Fierce competition for appointments has seen the creation of an appointment-finding app that last week was one of the most downloaded apps in France – here’s how it works.

France last week hit its target of giving 20 million people at least one dose of the vaccine by May 15th, the next target is to have 30 million people – representing 60 percent of the adult population – vaccinated with at least one dose by June 15th.

By Thursday, May 27th, 23 million people had received at least one dose – 44 percent of the adult population –  and 10 million have received both.

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French government calls on over-60s to get second Covid booster as cases rise

As Covid cases show a significant rise in France in recent weeks, the government is calling on all eligible groups to get a second Covid vaccine booster shot.

French government calls on over-60s to get second Covid booster as cases rise

After a 40 percent rise in Covid-19 cases in the last week, the French Health ministry is calling all eligible people – including over 60s and those health conditions – to receive their second booster (fourth dose) of the vaccine.

“It is necessary to redouble our efforts to protect vulnerable people, this is done through vaccination and this campaign of second boosters is absolutely necessary,” said the ministry of health.

The Covid incidence rate is increasing in more than 50 départements across France. Currently, there are an average of 50,000 positive tests per day, which has also been accompanied by an increase in hospitalisations. 

“This is very clearly a reprisal of the epidemic linked to the arrival of new variants of the Omicron family, which are called BA4 BA5,” said infectious disease specialist Anne-Claude Crémieux to Franceinfo. Crémieux added that these variants are faster-spreading.

Therefore, the government is calling on vulnerable people to take their second booster dose (the fourth dose of the vaccine).

So far, only a quarter of eligible people have taken their second booster dose, with an average rate of 25,000 to 30,000 injections per day for the past two months.

“This is not enough, and it is not going fast enough,” urged the Ministry of Health on Tuesday.

The Haute autorité de santé also recently released its recommendation for a vaccination campaign to give a second Covid vaccine booster shot for the wider population, starting in October. 

The HAS recommendation advises starting France’s annual flu vaccine campaign in mid October (mid September for the French overseas territory of Mayotte) and combining it with a campaign to give a second Covid vaccine booster ahead of a possible new wave of Covid in the winter. 

At present although the great majority of the French adult population is vaccinated against Covid with two doses and a booster, a second booster is only recommended for people in high risk groups such as the over 60s and those with long-term health conditions.

The HAS recommendation reads: “At the end of May, the HAS recommended preparing for a booster shot campaign for people most at risk of developing the most severe forms of Covid, and envisaged a booster shot for healthcare workers.

“Those parts of the population most at risk are also those for whom the seasonal flu vaccination is recommended, therefore for logistical reasons the HAS recommends combining the two campaigns.”

The flu campaign is advised to go ahead as normal, starting in mid-October.

The HAS only makes recommendations, the details of policy are up to the government, but it usually follows HAS advice.

The usual seasonal flu campaign in France offers a vaccine for free to anyone in a high risk group, which includes the elderly, people with underling health conditions, healthcare workers and pregnant women – full details HERE on how to get the vaccine.

Those who don’t fit into those categories can still access the vaccine, but must pay for it – €6-€10 for the vaccine and the standard appointment charge to have it administered by a doctor (€25, with 70 percent reimbursed for those with a carte vitale).

The flu vaccine is available from family doctors, midwives and participating pharmacies once the campaign officially launches.

The Covid vaccine is also available from family doctors, midwives and pharmacies, but most of the vaccine centres set up in 2021 have now been closed down.

There is currently no suggestion a return of the health pass, so a second booster shot would be entirely voluntary, but the government has the power to re-introduce such measures if a major wave of Covid hits France over the autumn and winter.

Currently, there are no plans to lower the age minimum (as of now set at 60 years old) for receiving a second booster. Health authorities believe that the immune response after a first booster “continues to sufficiently protect” younger adults.