EXPLAINED: Who is eligible for the monkeypox vaccine in France?

France has vaccinated more than 55,000 people against monkeypox - including many who have travelled from neighbouring countries. Here's who is eligible for the vaccine.

EXPLAINED: Who is eligible for the monkeypox vaccine in France?
A healthcare worker prepares to administer a vaccine (Photo: Joe Raedle / Getty Images via AFP)

There are 118 venues across France able to deliver the vaccine, including a large ‘vaccinedrome’ in the Paris regions. 

French health authorities recommend vaccination for people in high-risk groups;

  • Men who have sex with men who have multiple sexual partners
  • Transgender people with multiple sexual partners
  • Sex workers 
  • People who frequent locations where people go to find sex
  • Healthcare workers who have been in contact with monkeypox patients
  • People who have been in close contact with monkeypox patients eg family members or house-mates

As well as opening the vaccinedrome, the French government have also authorised medical students and retired doctors and nurses to administer the vaccine, as was the case during the Covid vaccination drive.

Health minister François Braun has called on patients who have lesions or other symptoms to self-isolate as soon as possible, and for people in high-risk groups to take up the offer of a vaccine.

READ ALSO French doctors reveal the ‘psychological harm’ to monkeypox patients

“The profile (of the patients) is that they are mainly men who have had sexual relations with other men, but one can also be infected by contact with a patient’s blisters,” Braun said.

“France was one of the first countries to recommend and authorise preventive vaccination,” he told Franceinfo.

France has one of the highest vaccination rates in Europe and dozens of people have travelled from Belgium, Switzerland, Italy and Spain to access vaccines – health centre staff in border areas say they are generally happy to provide access to non-residents, provided it does not impact on supplies for French residents.

First detected in humans in 1970, monkeypox is less dangerous and contagious than the eradicated smallpox virus, which it resembles, and an existing smallpox vaccine is being used against it.

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Experts warn of high levels of flu in France this winter

Experts have warned of a particularly bad flu epidemic this winter in France due to a combination of lowered immune systems and 'vaccine apathy' - urging high-risk groups to get their shot as soon as the flu vaccination campaign begins in October.

Experts warn of high levels of flu in France this winter

France’s annual flu vaccine campaign will officially get under way on October 18th this year – and medical experts have warned that this year’s season may be a bad one amid fears of “vaccine apathy”.

When, where and how to get flu shots and Covid boosters in France this autumn

Immunologist Alain Fischer, who chaired France’s Conseil d’orientation de la stratégie vaccinale throughout the Covid-19 pandemic said that the high number of flu cases in Australia and the southern hemisphere in its winter were “a warning sign” that this winter’s flu, coupled with rising cases of Covid-19, could lead to a sharp rise in hospitalisations again in the winter.

“For two years, influenza has been kept at bay, thanks to the barrier measures we have put in place against Covid,” he told Le Parisien. 

“This year, it will be difficult to maintain the same level of protection: masks, distancing, intensive hand washing … Faced with this relaxation, there is a serious risk of flu epidemic.”

Between two million and six million people contract flu every winter in France. The infection is responsible for between 4,000 and 6,000 deaths every year, usually among people aged 65 and over. But in ‘bad’ flu years, that mortality figure can rise rapidly.

READ ALSO When, where and how to get flu shots and Covid boosters this autumn in France

The country, meanwhile, is at the start of what is being described as an “eighth wave” of Covid, and the Haute Autorité de santé recommends the eligible, vulnerable people ensure they are vaccinated against both viruses as early as possible. “A Covid-flu cohabitation is not a good thing,”  Fischer said. “It is synonymous with a very high number of hospitalisations. 

“Hence the objective of two strong vaccination campaigns – Covid and flu – especially for the most vulnerable.”

“The double injection is very good, and practical for patients. But I think that we should not wait, especially vulnerable people. It is a mistake to think that you will get your Covid booster when the flu vaccine is here – the Covid jab should not be delayed.”

Currently less than 40 percent of people eligible for a fourth Covid vaccine have received their latest dose.

Dual-strain Covid-19 vaccines designed to combat both delta and omicron variants will be available in France from October 3rd.

READ ALSO France approves new vaccines for Covid Omicron sub-variants

“It is quite possible to get your Covid injection in early October and flu vaccine in late October – you will need both anyway,” Fischer said.

The Haute Autorité de Santé recommends influenza vaccination for the following groups:

  • people aged 65 and over; 
  • people with chronic diseases; 
  • pregnant women;
  • people suffering from obesity (BMI equal to or greater than 40 kg/m 2 );
  • Infants under 6 months at risk of serious influenza;
  • Families and others close to immunocompromised people; 
  • home help workers caring for vulnerable individuals.

For anyone in these groups, the flu vaccine is 100 percent covered by health insurance and delivered free of charge to the pharmacy, on presentation of a voucher.