French health minister: Anyone who has had Covid only needs one vaccine dose

France's health minister has formalised the vaccine policy for people who have had and recovered from Covid, and announced that vaccine centres will be equipped with antibody tests to test everybody before they are vaccinated.

French health minister: Anyone who has had Covid only needs one vaccine dose
Photo: Fred Tanneau/AFP

It had previously been the recommendation that people who had been diagnosed with Covid only needed a single dose of the double-dose vaccines – Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca.

However, now vaccine centres in France will be equipped with the finger-prick antibody tests which can detect whether a person has ever had Covid.

These will be offered to all, so that people who have had Covid without realising it can be identified and will only need a single injection.

READ ALSO What to expect at your vaccine appointment (and what to do if you don’t have a carte vitale)

Dominique Le Guludec, president of the French medical regulator Haute Autorité de Santé, told RMC radio: “We propose, at the time of the first dose, the finger-prick test to see if you have antibodies to determine the need for a second dose.

“This can avoid a second dose for many people who will be delighted.”

Health minister Olivier Véran added that this could affect between 5 and 6 million people who would only need one dose.

Anyone who has had Covid cannot be vaccinated in France until three months after they recovered.

Le Geludec added: “If you have had Covid, yes you should be vaccinated… However, not immediately, we have advised three to six months after a symptomatic form of the virus.

“These patients are protected for a certain period of time. On the other hand, we also know, with the more robust data since our opinion, that one dose is enough.”

People who only need one dose of the vaccine are given a vaccination certificate marked with a second dose, so that they show up as ‘fully vaccinated’ on France’s health passport, which from next week can be used to enter concerts and sports matches as well as some types of international travel.

READ ALSO How France’s health passport will work this summer 

The health passport also allows people to upload a recent negative Covid test, or proof of having recently recovered from Covid – the accepted proof is a positive PCR or antigen test more than 15 days and less than 6 months old, and a follow-up negative test.

People who had Covid more than six months ago, or who never got a test while they were ill, cannot use the recovery option.

French president Emmanuel Macron, who caught Covid in December, has recently announced that he has now been vaccinated but, unlike many other politicians, declined to post a topless vaccine selfie.

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France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25

Free birth control for all women under 25 will be available in France from Saturday, expanding a scheme targeting under-18s to ensure young women don't stop taking contraception because they cannot afford it.

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25
A doctor holds an interuterine contraceptive device (IUD) before inserting it in a patient. Photo: Adek Berry/AFP

The scheme, which could benefit three million women, covers the pill, IUDs, contraceptive patches and other methods composed of steroid hormones. Contraception for minors was already free in France.

Several European countries, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, make contraception free for teens. Britain makes several forms of contraception free to all.

France announced the extension to women under 25 in September, saying surveys showed a decline in the use of contraception mainly for financial reasons.

The move is part of a series of measures taken by President Emmanuel Macron’s government to boost women’s rights and alleviate youth poverty. The free provision is supported by women’s groups including the association En Avant Tous.

“Between 18 and 25-years-old, women are very vulnerable because they lose a lot of rights compared to when they were minors and are very precarious economically,” spokeswoman Louise Delavier told AFP.

Leslie Fonquerne, an expert in gender issues, said there was more to be done.

“This measure in no way resolves the imbalance in the contraceptive burden between women and men,” the sociologist said.

In some developed countries, the free contraception won by women after decades of campaigning is coming under attack again from the religious right.

In the United States, former president Barack Obama’s signature health reform, known as Obamacare, gave most people with health insurance free access to birth control.

But his successor Donald Trump scrapped the measure, allowing employers to opt out of providing contraception coverage on religious grounds — a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2020.

Poland’s conservative government has also heavily restricted access to emergency contraception as part of its war on birth control.