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France to shorten the gap between doses of Covid vaccines

France's health minister has announced a narrowing of the gap between doses of the vaccine as the country battles to get as many people as possible fully vaccinated ahead of the spread of the Delta variant of Covid.

France to shorten the gap between doses of Covid vaccines
Photo: Thomas Padilla/AFP

Health minister Olivier Véran announced on Tuesday a new policy for the second doses of Covid vaccines.

Instead of waiting six weeks for the second dose, people will be able to book a second appointment between 3 and 7 weeks after the first.

Véran tweeted: “Are you hesitating to get vaccinated in June because you will be on holiday in July? Don’t hesitate any longer. We are changing the appointment system to allow you to schedule your booster between 21 and 49 days after the 1st injection.”

There was no date given for when the new system will be in place, but people who have booked their appointments via the DoctoLib app already have the option to log in to the site and change the date or time of any appointment, including vaccine appointments.

It was later clarified that the change affects the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines – Pfizer makes up the vast bulk of vaccine doses given in France – and not the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The change comes as France battles to get as many people as possible fully vaccinated quickly before cases of the Delta variant first detected in India spread.

READ ALSO Delta variant: Should France be worried about a spike in cases as seen in the UK?

Véran, on a visit to a vaccine centre in Paris on Tuesday, revealed that this variant now makes up two to four percent of new cases in France.

He added: “You will say that this is still a small number, but that was the situation in England a few weeks ago.”

Research from the UK shows that while both Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines give a high level of protection against the Delta variant with two doses, protection from a single dose is much lower – around 30 percent for Pfizer and less for AstraZeneca.

There is also concern over whether France can keep up the pace of its vaccine programme over July and August, when French people traditionally take summer holidays and head to the coast or the countryside.

France has already hits is target to have 30 million people vaccinated with at least one dose by June 15th and the next target is to have offered the vaccine to all adults who want it by August 31st.

Member comments

  1. That didn’t go well today, I booked the second vaccination through Doctolib for my son 21 days later and was told this was not allowed according to the vaccination centre in Meymac, and if I did not change it to 4 weeks they will not vaccinate! I told them just leave it, soon you’ll be updated about the latest rules,, I am better informed than the locals, lol

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TRAVEL NEWS

Paxlovid, tests and isolation: Covid care for tourists in France

With travel opening up, many people are planning trips to France over the next few months, but the Covid pandemic has not gone away. Here are your questions answered on testing, isolation and medical treatment if you do fall sick while on holiday.

Paxlovid, tests and isolation: Covid care for tourists in France

Travel rules

Covid-related travel rules have mostly been relaxed now but you will still need to show proof of being fully vaccinated at the French border. If you are not vaccinated you will need to show a negative Covid test – find the full breakdown of the rules HERE.

Testing

Once in France if you develop symptoms or you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive you will need to get a Covid test.

The good news is that testing is widely available in France, both for residents and tourists.

The easiest way to get a test is head to a pharmacy, most of which offer the rapid-result antigen test on a walk-in basis Tests are available to everyone who wants one, there is no need to fulfill any set criteria.

For full details on how to get a test, and some handy French vocab, click HERE.

The difference for tourists is that you will have to pay for your test, while residents get their costs reimbursed by the French state health system.

In the pharmacy you may be asked for your carte vitale – this is the health card that residents use to claim refunds. As a tourist you won’t have the card – you can still get the test, you will just need to pay for it. Costs vary between pharmacies but are capped at €22 for an antigen test or €54 for a PCR test.

Isolation

If your test is positive you are legally required to isolate, but how long your isolation period is depends on the your vaccination stats – full details HERE.

Treatment

For most fully-vaccinated people without underlying health conditions the symptoms of Covid are fairly mild, but if you do become ill, here’s how to access medical help while in France.

Pharmacy – one of the first things you will notice about France is that pharmacies are everywhere, just look out for the green cross. As well as selling over-the-counter medication, pharmacies all have at least one fully-qualified pharmacist on the staff who can offer medical advice. 

Take advantage of pharmacists – they train for at least six years so they’re very knowledgeable and they’re easy to access by simply walking into the shop. In tourist areas it’s likely that they will speak English. Pharmacists can also signpost you to a nearby doctor if you need extra help.

Doctors – if you need to see a doctor, look out for a médecin généraliste (a GP or family doctor). There is no need to be registered with a doctor, simply call up and ask for an appointment if you need one. If you have a smartphone you can use the medical app Doctolib to find a généraliste in your area who speaks English. You will need to pay for your consultation – €25 is the standard charge and you pay the doctor directly using either cash or a debit card.

You may be able to claim back the cost later on your own health/travel insurance depending on the policy.

Ambulance – if you are very sick or have difficulty breathing you should call an ambulance – the number is 15. All non-residents are entitled to emergency treatment in France, whether or not you have insurance, but if you are admitted or have treatment you may need to pay later.

READ ALSO Emergency in France: Who to call and what to say

Paxlovid – several readers have asked whether the Covid treatment drug Paxlovid is available in France. It was licenced for use in February 2022 and is available on prescription from pharmacies, mainly for people with underlying health conditions or an impaired immune system. You can get a prescription from a medical practitioner.

The drug is reimbursed for French residents, but as a tourist you will have to pay.

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