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.
Parce que tout est prêt pour la campagne de vaccination contre la grippe nous avançons son lancement :
↪️ Dès aujourd’hui en EHPAD.
↪️ Le 22/10 pour les publics prioritaires.
↪️ Vous pouvez effectuer votre rappel contre la COVID en parallèle.
Prenez soin de vous.
— Olivier Véran (@olivierveran) October 18, 2021
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
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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.
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.
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”.
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.