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COVID-19 VACCINES

Reader Question: Can I specify the dual-strain vaccine when getting my Covid booster in France?

France recently expanded the eligibility for receiving a second Covid-19 booster shot, but many are asking whether it is possible to specifically request one of the new dual-strain vaccines when booking.

Reader Question: Can I specify the dual-strain vaccine when getting my Covid booster in France?
Health worker prepares a dose of Moderna Covid-19 booster vaccine in Toulouse on December 9, 2021. (Photo by GEORGES GOBET / AFP)

Question: I am qualified, by age and by time elapsed since my first Covid booster, for a fourth shot. But I want to make sure that my fourth shot will be one of the new dual-strain vaccines. Is this possible?

French health authorities launched the autumn booster campaign on October 3rd, which includes newly authorised bivalent (dual-strain) vaccines – such as 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 – which are designed to combat the Omicron variant.

France’s health authority, the Haut Autorité de Santé said in a press release on September 20th that “the expected clinical efficacy of these new dual-strain vaccines is at least equivalent or even superior to that of the original vaccines.”

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

So is it possible to specify when booking that you want the dual-strain vaccine?

The Local spoke with representatives from the French ministry of health, who specified on Friday that “dual-strain (bivalent) vaccines will be injected as a priority during the autumn campaign in accordance with the HAS recommendations.”

For those who are eligible to renew their booster dose, it is therefore “not necessary to specify that they want a bivalent vaccine, since we will have enough doses for the entire target audience.”

France’s General Health Directorate told the Journal des Femmes that the two most commonly used vaccines for its fall campaign are “the Comirnaty Original/Omicron BA.4-5 vaccine (by Pfizer) and the Spikevax bivalent Original/ Omicron BA.1 vaccine (by Moderna).”

Data for the last two weeks show that of the 112,409 people in France who received a second booster dose, 77,715 were vaccinated with the new Pfizer dual-strain vaccine, and 34,694 were vaccinated with the new Moderna Omicron-adapted product – meaning that everyone got a dual-strain vaccine.

You can find the whole list of those who are eligible for a second (or third) booster HERE.

READ MORE: Reader Question: Can I get a third Covid booster shot in France?

Additionally, health authorities have been recommending that anyone who is eligible should receive their booster shot. 

Before the dual-strain vaccines were authorised, French health authorities recommended at-risk groups to receive booster vaccines as soon as possible, rather than waiting for the availability of the Omicron-adapted jabs.

“For people at risk, either the elderly or those with co-morbidities, it is necessary to give the fourth dose as long as the virus is circulating, and therefore as of now,” infectious diseases specialist Anne-Claude Crémieux told Le Parisien over the summer.

Crémieux added that vaccines not-adapted to Omicron subvariants have also “been proven to be effective against severe forms of the disease”.

If you have already had a booster with the original vaccine and now want an additional dual-strain booster this is possible, although you must wait either thee months (if you are over 80 or the resident of a nursing home) or six months (for other at-risk groups) after your most recent booster.

Additionally, TF1 reported on Friday that Santé publique France (France’s public health agency) was calling for an intensification of the ongoing vaccine campaign, because only 30.4 percent of 60-79 year olds had received their second booster dose as of October 10th, and only 37.7 percent of over 80s – the group most vulnerable to severe forms of Covid-19 – had received their new booster. 

France is currently seeing a continued rise in cases amid the eighth wave of Covid-19, and the number of new positive cases rose by 13 percent in one week, as of October 11th.

Santé publique France referenced this during its weekly bulletin, saying that “the circulation of Covid-19 – and hospital admissions – continue to increase throughout metropolitan France.”

“Given the current situation and the diminished adoption of preventive measures, vaccination must be reinforced, in particular by a booster with a bivalent vaccine,” the agency wrote.

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TRAVEL NEWS

France launches ski safety campaign after rising number of accidents

Injuries and even deaths while skiing in France have seen a sharp rise in recent years - leading the French government to create a new ski safety campaign.

France launches ski safety campaign after rising number of accidents

The early part of the ski season in France was dominated by headlines over the lack of snow in popular mountain resorts – but, now that climatic conditions have started to improve for skiers and there is at least some snow, the winter sports season is in gearing up to hit full swing.

READ ALSO Snow latest: Have France’s ski resorts reopened?

Heading into the winter holiday season – French schools in ‘Zone A’ break up for two weeks on February 4th, followed on February 11th by schools in ‘Zone B’, while schools in Zone C finish for the vacation on February 18th – the government has launched an awareness campaign highlighting skiing good practice and how to avoid accidents.

READ ALSO What can I do if I’ve booked a French skiing holiday and there’s no snow?

The Pratiquer l’hiver campaign has advice, posters and videos highlighting safety on the slopes, in an effort to reduce the number of accidents on France’s mountains – where, every year, between 42,000 and 51,000 people have to be rescued, according to the Système National d’Observation de la Sécurité en Montagne (SNOSM)

The campaign, with information in a number of languages including English, covers:

  • on-piste and off-piste safety advice (signalling, avalanche risks, freestyle areas, snowshoes, ski touring, etc.);
  • Help and instructions for children explained in a fun and educational way (educational games, games of the 7 families to be cut out, safety quizzes, advice sheets for sledding, skiing, prevention clips, etc.);
  • physical preparation (warm up before exercise, prepare your muscles and stretch well, also how to adapt the choice of pistes and the speed to your physical condition);
  • equipment and safety (helmet, goggles, sunscreen, etc.);
  • marking and signalling on the slopes (opening and marking of green, blue, red and black slopes, off-piste).

There are 220 ski resorts in France, the world’s second largest ski area, covering more than 26,500 hectares of land, across 30 departements.

In the 2021/22 ski season, totalling 53.9 million ‘ski days’, according to SNOSM, emergency services made 49,622 interventions in France’s ski areas, and 45,985 victims were treated for injuries.

The results show an increase in the number of interventions by ski safety services – a rise of 13 percent compared to the average of the five years prior to the pandemic – and the number of injured, up 8 percent. 

A few incidents on the slopes made the headlines at the time, including the five-year-old British girl who died after an adult skier crashed into her in the Alpine resort of Flaine, and the French actor Gaspard Ulliel, who died at the age of 37 after an accident while skiing in La Rosière, Savoie.

In total, 12 people died as a result of skiing incidents in France in the 2021/22 ski season. Three died following collisions between skiers, two after hitting an obstacle, and seven as a result of a fall or solo injuries. SNOSM also reported “a significant number of non-traumatic deaths, mostly due to cardiac problems” on France’s ski slopes.

The injuries due to solo falls – which represent 95 percent of all injuries –  on the ski slopes increased 2 percent compared to winter 2018/2019. Collisions between users fell, however (4.8 percent against . 5.6 percent) as did collisions between skiers and other people, and obstacles (0.7 percent compared to 0.85 percent).

The number of fatalities caused by avalanches, however, is at a historic low over the period 2011 to 2021, in part because of a relative lack of snow – leading to a drop in the number of avalanches and fewer people going off-piste, while awareness campaigns are hitting their mark, according to SNOSM.

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