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

The seasonal flu vaccination campaign will this year will be combined with booster shots of the Covid vaccine for those who need them - here's what you need to know about getting your shots in France this year.

When, where and how to get flu shots and Covid boosters this autumn in France
A nurse gives a flu shot (Photo by JEAN-PIERRE MULLER / AFP)

The campaign is set to begin on Tuesday October 18th, and it will be coupled with the Covid-19 booster campaign, which will launch on the same day.

French health authorities decided to couple the two vaccine campaigns particularly because “of the similarity of the populations concerned by the two campaigns” – particularly the elderly, those with long-term health conditions and pregnant women. 

Covid booster shots are already available to certain groups, and the French medical regulator Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS) has recommend that those at high risk from Covid should not wait to get a new booster shot.

The flu campaign

France’s fall vaccination campaign, beginning on October 18th, will encourage at-risk people to get both vaccines simultaneously.

Although full details of the campaign have so far not been published, France generally opens up the flu vaccine first to those in high-risk groups, for whom the vaccine is free. It is then opened up to everyone, but if you do not fall into one of the recommended categories you may have to pay – last year the shots were €6.

Eligible, at-risk people will begin to receive flu shot vouchers from September, according to French government website service-public. Once you receive your flu vaccine voucher, you can take it to a pharmacist who will provide you with a vaccine free of charge. 

READ MORE: How to get the flu vaccine in France

If this is your first time getting a flu shot in France, and you are part of the recommended group (below), you must first consult your primary care physician, who will prescribe the vaccine to you. Then you can bring that prescription to the pharmacist who will provide you with the vaccine.

French public health authorities strongly recommend the seasonal flu vaccine for the most vulnerable people, namely: 

  • People aged 65 and over
  • People with heart or respiratory disease
  • People with chronic liver disease with or without cirrhosis
  • People suffering from obesity
  • Pregnant women
  • Cruise ship and airplane crews and personnel accompanying travel groups (guides)
  • Vaccination of caregivers and people looking after young children or the elderly is strongly recommended.

Physicians, midwives, nurses, and pharmacists are capable of delivering flu shots in France. However, for nurses and pharmacists there are some specific guidelines. Nurses can only vaccinate those without a prescription as long as they are over 16 and do not have certain allergies. The same goes for pharmacists, who must also record the vaccination in the medical records of the person being vaccinated.

Covid boosters

At present a second Covid vaccine booster shot is available only to high-risk groups, and the government has not mentioned expanding this to the general population.

You can find out if you are eligible HERE.

What about new dual-strain Covid vaccines?

A second Covid vaccine booster shot is already available for people in high-risk groups, using the existing versions of the vaccine.

Regarding the dual-strain vaccines, France’s national authority for health, the HAS (Haute autorité de santé) published a press release on September 20th saying that they have authorised “Pfizer and Moderna vaccines adapted to Omicron BA.1 and BA.5.”

Specifically, this concerns the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine adapted to BA.1, the Moderna vaccine adapted to BA.1, and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine adapted to BA.4/5.

READ MORE: Reader Question: When will the new dual-strain Covid vaccines be available in France?

The Moderna vaccine adapted to BA.4/5 “could be authorised by the end of September.”

The statement said authorised vaccines will be able to be used “indiscriminately” for at-risk people once the vaccines become available in France “within the coming weeks.” 

Prior to authorising these vaccines, the HAS had announced in early September that the dual-strain vaccines already authorised by the EMA (European Medicines Agency) will be available in France “in October” and “will certainly have a place in the vaccination strategy”.

According to reporter for Le Parisien, Nicolas Berrod, doses adapted to BA.1 will be available starting October 3rd.

Nevertheless, the government is recommending that at-risk populations who have not received their second booster shot should not wait until the dual-strain vaccines are available, but rather schedule their appointment as soon as possible.

What is the current Covid-19 situation?

As of September 26th, Covid-19 hospitalisations were rebounding, with an average of 476 patients being admitted per day, which represents an increase of 20 percent in the course of one week.

In terms of new cases, as of September 26th, the number of new positive cases had increased by 43.5 percent in the last week, with the rolling daily average approaching 35,000 new cases per day.

What about monkeypox?

Ahead of the fall campaign, French health authorities also issued a press release explaining that getting a Covid-19 vaccine and a Monkeypox vaccine at the same time does not pose a health risk to the patient, and is indeed possible. 

The monkeypox vaccine is already available in France to at-risk groups.

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

As of early September, the number of new monkeypox cases across Europe had been on the decline. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) reported that in mid-July about 400 new cases were identified each day in mid-July, and in early September that amount is closer to 100 new cases per day.

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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.