Question: I’ve received an email from Ameli regarding my booster jab. I have been told to make an appointment but there is no information on whether to ask for the same vaccine (in my case AstraZeneca) or to ask for an alternative. What are the official health guidelines in France?
For third or ‘booster’ vaccinations against Covid-19, France initially offered either Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech.
However following concerns raised in Scandinavian countries of rare heart problems in young people, the French medical regular has advised against using Moderna for the booster. This temporary change is in place until the European Medicines Agency publishes its own opinion on Moderna as a booster.
According to French public health guidelines, vaccines can be used interchangeably no matter what shots you had before. The scientific journal, Nature, found that mixing Covid vaccines could even boost immune response. Other studies have suggested that booster shots can significantly reduce the risk of severe illness deriving from Covid-19.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that booster shots should be targeted at vulnerable populations. The WHO has said that there is evidence that a third should could significantly reduce risk – particularly among immunocompromised groups, but has stopped short of recommending boosters as a blanket rule.
The French Health Minister has stressed that taking a third dose poses no risk.
In other words, you will not be able to have a third dose of AstraZeneca but it is still probably worth your time to get a booster shot.
Am I eligible for a third dose?
To receive a booster dose, you must meet one of the following criteria:
- Residency in an old-people’s home (Éhpad) or long-term care facility (USLD)
- Aged 65 and over and living at home (those over 80-years-old will be given priority)
- Have a chronic illness or comorbidity which places you at higher risk or falling seriously ill with Covid-19
- Have severe immunodeficiency (in which case you will eventually be eligible for a 4th dose)
- Be at least six months after your last dose
Where can I get a third dose?
You can get a third dose at a doctor’s or nurse’s office; in a pharmacy; or at a vaccination centre.
After receiving a third dose, can I forget about the virus?
French health authorities insist that even those that are fully vaccinated should continue to respect social distancing measures, wearing masks and washing hands. This is particularly important when in contact with people who are at greater risk of falling seriously ill (the elderly and those with comorbidities).
You can still get infected with the virus and pass it on even if you are fully vaccinated. The main advantage of vaccination is that it reduces your chance of getting seriously ill from the virus. 8 out of 10 people currently hospitalised with Covid in France are unvaccinated.