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Radio France Internationale
Radio France Internationale

France begins early vaccine programme as Covid-19 cases rise

File Photo: A healthcare worker fills a syringe with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on 5 October 2021. France has begun rolling-out its 2023 anti-Covid vaccination campaign early due to a resurgence of the virus over the summer. © Lynne Sladky / AP

A new vaccination drive against Covid-19 gets underway this Monday, with the French government having decided to bring the campaign forward to deal with a resurgence of the disease.

In mid-September, Health Minister Aurélien Rousseau announced "The virus is circulating, every one of us can see cases around us. The epidemic is here", speaking in a bid to justify the government's decision to finally speed up the programme.

To date, anti-Covid vaccinations were rolled-out at the same time as flu vaccinations, starting on 17 October.

But the coronavirus has returned with the back-to-school schedule, having re-emerged in the middle of the summer.

Although the virus surveillance system has been considerably streamlined, there has been no doubt that the epidemic is on the rise again.

In September, the French Committee for Monitoring and Anticipating Health Risks recommended "access to the booster vaccination as soon as possible".

This mainly targets the over-65s, frail people with chronic conditions, pregnant women and care workers.

Meanwhile, anyone wishing to receive a booster vaccination will be eligible, free of charge, provided they wait at least six months after their last injection or infection with Covid.

For Etienne Simon-Lorière, virologist and head of France's National Centre for Respiratory Infection Viruses at the Institut Pasteur, "It's a good idea to bring the booster campaign forward," particularly to avoid overloading hospitals.

mRNA vaccines prioritised

For the latest campaign, messenger RNA vaccines, adapted to the widespread Omicron sub-variant, have been recommended as first-line defence vaccines – regardless of the vaccine previously administered – as they should be more effective against the different variants currently in circulation.

"The updated vaccines should make it possible to better target the variants circulating today, but other sub-lineages have already emerged since they were designed," Simon-Lorière noted.

In tandem with the vaccination drive, the health authorities continue to recommend barrier measures – mask wearing, hand sanitation, etc. – mainly in the event of infection.

However, three and a half years after the start of the epidemic, this message seems to be less heeded.

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