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HEALTH

How to get the flu vaccine in France

France has now launched its seasonal flu vaccination campaign, so here's how and when you can get your shot.

France's seasonal flu vaccination campaign begins
Vaccination against the seasonal flu in France will begin on October 26th. Photo: Ludovic MARIN / AFP.

France’s seasonal flu vaccination campaign began on Friday, October 22nd for priority groups, four days ahead of the original schedule.

On Monday, Health minister Olivier Véran announced on Monday that the vaccination campaign had been brought forward, and that it would begin immediately for residents of Ehpad nursing homes, and at the end of the week for other high-risk groups.

Vaccinations will be reserved for priority groups until November 22nd, but from November 23rd, anybody will be able to get the jab.

Despite a fall in cases due to protective measures implemented during the Covid pandemic, seasonal flu still caused 3,700 deaths in France during the winter of 2019-2020, compared to 9,500 the previous year. Only 47.8 percent of people in at-risk groups were vaccinated in 2019-2020.

This year’s campaign will run until January 31st and there are some big changes.

Who is eligible

French health authorities recommend that vulnerable people get vaccinated against the flu on an annual basis. That includes those who fall into one of the following groups:

  • People aged over 65
  • People with chronic illnesses like respiratory or cardiovascular diseases
  • People considered obese
  • Pregnant women
  • Close family and friends of people who are immunocompromised
  • Close family and friends of infants under 6 months of age with high risk factors

Healthcare professionals who have contact with at-risk patients are also advised to get the vaccine.

For all of the above, the flu vaccine is free.

Since January 2021, anybody can get the shot, even if you do not belong to a priority group, but in that case you will have to pay for the vaccine yourself, which costs €6 to €10.

The cost of having the vaccine administered is reimbursed at the usual rate for a medical appointment – 70 percent if done by a doctor – but it is fully reimbursed for those suffering from a long-term illness.

How to get vaccinated

The vaccine can be administered by a GP or a nurse, and it is now also possible to get vaccinated in a pharmacy which has been approved by the regional health authority, although pharmacists are only able to vaccinate adults in priority groups. Midwives are authorised to inject pregnant women and their relatives.

If you belong to a vulnerable group, your local CPAM should send you an invitation and a voucher to get vaccinated for free. For adults, this is all you’ll need, but minors in vulnerable groups must first bring the voucher to a doctor or midwife who will then write them a prescription.

READ ALSO Reader question: How can I get my Covid vaccine booster in France?

But even if you are part of a priority group, you may not automatically receive a voucher, which is often the case for pregnant women, those considered obese, or friends and family of vulnerable infants and the immunocompromised.

In that case, you can request a bon de prise en charge (voucher) from your doctor or midwife. Nurses and pharmacists can also provide vouchers to adults.

You can buy the vaccine, or collect it if you have a voucher, from a pharmacy.

Two-for-one

France has already begun offering third doses of the Covid-19 vaccines, and over a million people have now had a top-up jab.

But since the booster shots are currently targeted at over-65s and vulnerable groups – similar demographics to those at risk of severe forms of flu – it will be possible to combine this with the flu jab for those who are eligible for both.

The French Haute autorité de santé (HAS) medical regulator recommended combining the two shots for people in eligible groups. The Covid and flu vaccines can be administered at the same appointment but “in separate locations on the body” says the HAS, helpfully suggesting “one in each arm”.

READ ALSO Reader question: What vaccine should I choose for my third jab in France?

The health ministry has increased its order of flu vaccines by 10 million this year, after already increasing its usual order by 30 percent in last year’s campaign.

Member comments

  1. Hello – For those who don’t belong to a priority group and have to pay for the vaccine themselves, how do they obtain the vaccination? Thank you.

  2. Just make an appointment with a local GP or a local Pharmacy. At the doctor, you must ask for a prescription, by phone, and an appointment. Then you pick up the vaccine and the GP will jab you. Best to get the flu jab at the same time. Or try the pharmacy. Whether you will be able to get a Covid jab, I don’t know. We have not paid for our covid jabs, are not on insurance here but live here in our second home.

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HEALTH

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.

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