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BORDEAUX

Race to vaccinate in Bordeaux as rare variant detected

The city of Bordeaux in southwestern France will fast-track vaccinations for residents in one neighbourhood after nearly 50 people tested positive for a "very rare" variant of Covid-19, health authorities told AFP late Friday.

Race to vaccinate in Bordeaux as rare variant detected
A woman is vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against the coronavirus at the new vaccination centre at the Parc des Expositions in Bordeaux, southwestern France, on April 8th, 2021. Philippe LOPEZ / AFP

All adult residents of the city’s northern Bacalan neighbourhood would be granted “unconditional” access to jabs, “this weekend or at worst early next week”, said Patrick Dehail, medical advisor to the regional health authority.

“We are working with the (health) ministry to obtain the extra doses required,” Dehail said, adding that the boosted local effort will then be expanded to the wider Bordeaux area.
 
“We are talking about a variant that has already been identified at the national level but which has been very rare until now,” he added.
 
At least 46 people have been infected with the variant in the Bordeaux neighbourhood, with mass testing launched Friday to track down further cases.

None of those infected so far have been hospitalised.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to book an appointment for the Covid-19 vaccine in France

Labelled VOC 20I/484Q, the strain is related to the British variant of Covid-19, but with an additional mutation.

This mutation, (E484K), is also carried by the South African and Brazilian variants and is suspected of reducing the immunity acquired by either a past infection or by some vaccines.

However, Dehail said there was as yet “no reason” to suggest that the variant is resistant to mRNA vaccines such as those made by Pfizer or Moderna, or that it causes a more serious form of Covid-19.

The variant has been detected in the northern Paris region as well as Bordeaux in southwest France.

In France as a whole, vaccinations have so far been limited to the over-50s, although people outside this age group can book unused slots advertised at short notice. All adults will be eligible for vaccinations in France from May 31st.

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HEALTH

Reader Question: Can I get a third Covid booster shot in France?

As France launches its autumn vaccine campaign, almost half of those eligible for the second booster jab in France have already received it. This has left some wondering whether they could qualify for a third booster, using the new dual-strain vaccines.

Reader Question: Can I get a third Covid booster shot in France?

Question: I’m in my 70s and I had my second booster back in the summer but now I see that the new dual-strain vaccines are available – should I be getting an extra booster with the new type of vaccine?

French health authorities launched the autumn booster campaign on October 3rd includes newly authorised dual-strain vaccines – such as the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine adapted to BA.1, the Moderna vaccine adapted to BA.1, and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine adapted to BA.4/5 – which are designed to combat the Omicron variant.

It will be followed by the seasonal flu vaccination campaign in mid October.

READ MORE: When, where and how to get flu shots and Covid boosters this autumn in France

In France, about 6.3 million people have received a second booster dose, “or 41 percent of the eligible population,” said the Directorate General of Health (DGS) to Ouest France.

Currently only those in high risk groups are eligible for a second booster shot, including pregnant women, the elderly those with medical conditions or carers – find the full list here.

As almost half of the eligible population have already received a fourth vaccine, many are wondering whether they will be eligible for a fifth (or third booster) in order to access the new dual-strain vaccine.  

According to Virginie, a representative from HAS – France’s health authority – the organisation “no longer thinks in terms of doses for high-risk people and immunocompromised patients.”

Specifically, the HAS recommends that a new injection be given – and if possible one of the dual-strain vaccines – “regardless of the number of injections received up to now”.

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

However, French health authorities specified that the additional booster should “respect the minimum recommended time between two doses.”

“This depends based on your profile – for people aged 80 and over, residents of nursing homes or long-term care units (USLD) and those who are immunocompromised, the wait-time is three months between jabs. For the others, the delay is set at six months.”

For those who have already been infected by Covid-19, the HAS recommends that if you are eligible for a second (or third booster) that the additional dose “is still recommended, with a minimum delay of three months after infection.”

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