As countries around the world place bulk orders for the newly-developed Covid-19 vaccines, France’s Haut Autorité de Santé health authority has unveiled its recommendation for a 5-stage process for rolling out the vaccine, starting with the most vulnerable.
Here’s what we know so far about the French strategy;
There had been some discussion over whether to make the vaccine compulsory in France, given the country’s historically high level of vaccine-scepticism. A poll for the Journal du Dimanche newspaper this weekend found that 59 percent of French people said they do not intend to get vaccinated.
However, President Emmanuel Macron ruled this out in his most recent TV address to the nation, saying plainly: “I will not make the vaccine compulsory”.
The strategy outlined by Haute Autorité de Santé creates five groups of people according to their priority level for the vaccine. This is a recommendation and the final decision lies with the government
- 1. Residents of Ehpads – France’s Ehpads (nursing homes) are for people who are both elderly and ill, and therefore extremely vulnerable to Covid-19. Ehpads were very badly hit during the first wave of the virus, with around one third of all Covid-19 deaths occurring in nursing homes. These residents have therefore been made the top priority and will be vaccinated “on arrival of the very first doses” says Haute Autorité de Santé. Staff in Ehpads and high-risk residents of other types of long-term care facility are also included in phase 1.
- 2. Highest risk groups – phase 2 will concern all over 75s, and anyone in the 65-74 age
- group who has a chronic illness that makes them vulnerable to Covid, such as heart and lung conditions.
- 3. Vulnerable people and health workers – the third phase concerns anyone over 50 who has a chronic illness and all health workers and carers.
- 4. High-risk employment – people working in non-healthcare jobs that pose a high risk of infection, such as public-facing roles, and people in precarious situation such as the homeless.
- 5. All other adults – the final phase is over 18s who have no underlying health conditions and don’t fit into one of the above groups. Children – who tend to get Covid-19 with mild symptoms – are not classed as a priority group.
This is the big question, but at this stage the exact timeframe is not clear as countries scramble to secure adequate stocks of the vaccine, while several vaccines still need to go through further stages of testing and peer-review before they can be released for use.
Macron said in his latest speech that France will begin its first vaccinations in late December or early January, but many have criticised that as being overly optimistic.
Haute Autorité de Santé says it has released the priority plan “given the limited number of doses that will be available at the start of the vaccination campaign” so even if the very first jabs are given in late December/early January it would only be to those in the highest risk group.
Both the World Health Organisation and the EU’s health authority have said that March is a realistic date for the start of widespread vaccination campaign rollouts.
No detail was released on how the vaccine will be given, but it is likely that it will follow a similar pattern to the normal winter flu vaccination campaign where the jabs can be administered by doctors or certain pharmacists.
People who fall into a priority group are sent a voucher or code by health authority Ameli which they then take to their doctor of pharmacist to have the vaccine administered.
The practicalities may depend on which vaccine is used, as the one developed by Pfizer/BioNTech has to be stored at -70C, which presents considerable logistical difficulties outside a hospital environment.