As another lockdown has been instated for the four coming weeks, the country has moved to the next step in the fight against the coronavirus epidemic: the vaccine campaign. It even began earlier than expected: from December 27, 2020 instead of January 4, 2021 as initially planned. Jean Castex announced that 200 million doses will be made available. The vaccination campaign is said to take place in three steps, depending on the priority populations, including a few changes because of delivery delays.
Despite this early start, France's vaccine campaign was getting stuck. Only 516 people have been vaccinated as of Friday January 1, the Health Minister said, as in Germany, over 200,000 people have been given the shot. A slow speed "accepted" by the government but irritating the people. During his televised New Year's wishes, the President promised he will "not let unjustified slow speed settle in". Olivier Véran has gathered heads of local health agencies in order to coordinate the latest details as to the vaccine calendar.
Vaccination: steps and age ranges targeted
The government ultimately decided to bring forward phase two of the vaccine campaign. Furthermore, starting Monday January 4, vaccine is open to caregivers aged 50+ and to those with comorbidities. It includes about 1.2 million people working at the shopital or as city doctors. Health caregivers can be vaccinated in vaccine centers. There will be only one per department. These centers will also be used to stock vaccine doses for the hospitals.
Another statement, firefighters and home helpers aged 50+ can be vaccinated. As for vaccinating people aged 75+, the campaign ultimately started on January 18. Olivier Véran announced that people wishing to get vaccinated can sign-up. This registration opens again from mid-February as 1.7 million appointments have been made available for the coming weeks, after a sharp stop in registrations and delay of some vaccinations because of lack of vaccines as they have not been delivered in time.
Anyway, vaccination continues for this age group: "If you are 75+ and live at home, you can make an appointment online, on Santé.gouv.fr or by calling the national hotline, or directly call the center the closest to you" the Health Minister reminded this Thursday February 25. He went on and explained vaccination in people over the age of 75 "will continue in March and we shall, let's hope so, finish vaccinating all volunteering elderly people by the end of March, enabling then to open vaccination to people aged 65+".
France's vaccine campaign's key dates
STEP 1: Late December 2020 – Late January 2021
On December 27, 2020, France initiated the first phase of the vaccine campaign. In compliance with the recommendations from the Haute Autorité de Santé, it will first target a part of the population at risk: elderly people living in nursing homes, as well as the staff likely to develop a severe form of the disease.
This Thursday December 31, 2020, Health Minister Olivier Véran has released several tweets detailing the vaccine campaign and said that health caregivers aged 50+ will be able to be vaccinated starting Monday January 4, 2021.
Ove 1.5 million people are then said to be aimed at by this first phase: it matches the number of doses available at that time.
On January 5, Olivier Véran announced firefighters and home helpers aged 50+ can be vaccinated.
Furthermore, the Minister also added that people aged 75+ can be vaccinated from January 18.
STEP 2: February 2021 – March 2021
Once the first step has been complete and as deliveries arrive, the vaccination scheme will be extended to vulnerable people. After people aged 75+, health workforce without age restrictions can be vaccinated, followed by people aged 50-65: "In compliance with the Haute Autorité de Santé's guidance, this vaccine will be used first to vaccinate all health workers, however old they are, then people of 50 to 65 years of age with comorbidities. And then, all people aged 50 to 65" Castex explained on Thursday February 4 during a press brief. He went on stating that "all people aged 50-65" will be vaccinated then, during this very step.
These vaccinations have been made possible thanks to the arrival of the AstraZeneca vaccine which first doses are to be delivered on Friday February 5. They will be first given to health workers: "the first delivery of AstraZeneca vaccines - by the end of this week - will be given to health facilities to protect health workers at the hospitals and in the city fighting on the frontlines against the virus, and vaccination - mark my words - is to start from this Saturday" the PM also added during the conference.
Then, the vaccine campaign will open to doctors, pharmacists and other "city caregivers": "conditions to store the vaccine, less difficult than the first two, enables us to give - by the end of the month - city health workforce, namely GPs, pharmacists and nurses, the rest of the vaccine campaign. You trust them and it will enable us to reinforce the proximity of this vaccine campaign even more" Castex added. He concluded: "thanks to this new vaccine, we can meet the 4-million-people-given-their-first-injetcion goal by the end of February". Vaccination performed by GP since February 25 involve anyone already allowed, as well as people between 65 and 74 years of age with comorbidities. As for pharmacists, they will be able to vaccinate from mid-March.
Moreover, people suffering from severe diseases, age not included: "if you are younger, and even much younger, but are listed as people suffering from very severe diseases [...] making you very fragile to the virus, you can get vaccinated in a vaccination center provided you have a medical prescription, with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines" Véran stated this Thursday February 25 at a press brief.
Same thing for disabled people living in some kind of facilities: "if you live in a collective housing facilities, if you are disabled and enjoy specific care, you can also get vaccinated with AstraZeneca", the Minister explained as well.
STEP 3: Spring 2021
The last and third phase is set to begin in the spring 2021. This time, the access to vaccine will be extended to people aged 65-75: "please know that if you are between 65 and 75 years of age, you'll get vaccinated with messenger RNA vaccines whatever happens by April", the Health Minister explained on Thursday February 25. Then people over 50 years of age without comorbidities will be vaccinated.
Then, security staff, education staff, vulnerable people and people in precarious situations, and those living in closed facilities will be vaccinated. Then, it will be made available to the entire population. Even though the vaccine will not be compulsory, it will be free of charge for people wishing to get vaccinated.