Authority in south west France delays lifting Covid-19 health restrictions amid Delta variant fears

Residents in the south west France will have to wait at least another week before Covid-19 restrictions are lifted amid concern over the spread of the Delta variant of the virus.

Authority in south west France delays lifting Covid-19 health restrictions amid Delta variant fears
French Prime Minister Jean Castex and Health Minister Olivier Véran visited the Landes last week. Photo: Gaizka Iroz | AFP

On the day the rest of metropolitan France took a fourth step out of lockdown, authorities in the Landes département announced they were maintaining restriction levels in place since June 9th.

The final step sees a number of restrictions lifted around large events and crowds and also passes responsibility back to local authorities on issues such as restrictions for bars, cafés and festivals.

Across France, health trends are going in the right direction, with case numbers and hospitalisations continuing to fall – but the situation has stalled somewhat in the Landes, on the south west Atlantic coast of the country. 

As a result, the Préfet has decided to keep the existing restrictions in place until at least July 6th – depending on the local health situation.

“The situation is stabilised, with an incidence rate which oscillates around 50 cases per 100,00 people.

“It is not particularly serious, but it is particularly atypical compared to the rest of France,”  Préfet Cécile Bigot-Dekeyzer said at a press conference on Wednesday, a week after Prime Minister Jean Castex and Health Minister Olivier Véran had visited the department as cases rose.

The recorded incidence rate in the Landes on Tuesday, June 29th was 48 cases per 100,000 residents, according to France’s Covid Tracker website – below the alert threshold of 50, but well above the national average of 19.

Meanwhile, half of the total French population has received a first dose of vaccine. In total, 33.5 million people have received a first dose of Covid-19 vaccine, and 22.8 million, or 32.4 percent of the population, are fully vaccinated.

Despite the falling Covid-19 numbers, concern over the spread of the contagious Delta variant remains. It now counts for 20 percent of new cases in France and “is gradually becoming dominant,” warned Véran on Franceinfo on Tuesday.

ALSO READ: Delta variant: Is France heading for another Covid surge as seen in the UK?

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Children under five eligible for Covid-19 vaccinations in France

French health authorities have launched a campaign to vaccinate children under the age of five in certain high-risk groups against the Covid-19 virus.

Children under five eligible for Covid-19 vaccinations in France

According to reporting by Le Parisien, France’s public health body (the DGS) sent a message out to health professionals on Thursday night informing them that they had launched the campaign for children under the age of five in certain risk categories to be vaccinated against the virus.

The French medical regulator (HAS) had previously recommended that certain groups of children in certain high-risk groups – such as those with serious illnesses or those living with an immunocompromised parent – be vaccinated from the age of six months.

Previously those children could be vaccinated in hospitals and specialised centres, but starting on Monday, January 23rd, children under the age of five who are eligible for vaccination against Covid-19 will be able to be vaccinated by a doctor, midwife or nurse.

READ MORE: Paxlovid and vaccines: The latest Covid advice from the French government

The HAS released a list of conditions that would make children under the age of five eligible for vaccination, including;

  • Liver disease
  • Heart and respiratory diseases (including severe asthma requiring continuous treatment)
  • Neurological diseases
  • Primary or drug-induced immunodeficiency
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Hematologic malignancies
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Trisomy 2
  • Children who live in the same environment as an immunocompromised person

France’s decision to authorise vaccination for certain young children came after several other countries, such as the United States did so.

According to L’Obs, babies “under one year old accounted for 70 percent of hospitalisations for children aged 0-17 years old and 84 percent of critical care admissions.”

When authorising children under five for vaccinations, the HAS noted that so far “no deaths, cases of myocarditis or pericarditis have been reported in the various studies conducted.”

How to vaccinate your child 

First, you must verify whether your child under the age of five is eligible for the vaccine by checking the list of high-risk groups above.

Next, you should consult your child’s doctor, as a prescription will be necessary for them to be vaccinated. 

Both parents must agree to the child being vaccinated by filling out the authorisation form HERE, according to the DGS. 

The vaccination schedule will differ for children under the age of five. They will be given a lower dose of the vaccine – specifically the Pfizer-BioNTech shot – and it will be delivered in three total injections, rather than two. 

The interval between the first two will be three weeks, and the interval between the second and third jabs will be at least eight weeks.

Even if the child has had Covid, “all three doses should be given, to ensure optimal protection,” the DGS told medical professionals, according to Le Parisien. However, if the child becomes sick with Covid-19 during the vaccination schedule, it can be revised so that there is an interval of at least three months from infection and vaccination.

According to the HAS, citing data from a clinical trial conducted in the first half of 2022, three doses of the vaccine was 80.3 percent effective against symptomatic infections “in all age groups from 6 months to 4 years with no history of infection.”

What about kids over the age 5?

All children aged five to 11 have been eligible for Covid-19 vaccination since December 2021 in France (children aged 11 and over were already eligible). Despite this eligibility, only about five percent of children in this group have been vaccinated, giving France one of the lowest levels of vaccination for young children in Europe. 

While Covid-19 represents a greater risk for older children and adults, according to L’Obs, severe illness and death can also occur in children. 

READ MORE: Can anybody in France now get the latest Covid booster vaccine?

As of January 20th, the French government still required that children aged five to 11 have both parents or guardians (if both have legal parental authority) provide authorisation prior to vaccination against Covid-19.

Prior to being vaccinated, there will be a pre-vaccination medical interview (on-site) where the medical professional will ensure that the child does not have any conditions, answer any questions the child or parents may have, and finally provide a prescription for the vaccination.