This should be one of the few good news to celebrate this New Year’s Eve: the arrival of the Covid vaccine. “We have a new weapon against the virus“rejoiced Emmanuel Macron on Twitter Sunday, the day the vaccination campaign was launched. Champagne, then? Not so sure. In fact, the beginnings of vaccination are longer in France than in its European neighbors. The government assures us that this is the consequence of a cautious strategy and that the gap will be closed by the end of January. Is France late? Should we be worried? Marianne make the point.
On the first days, an indisputable delay
“It’s not even comparable with other countries, it’s anecdotal“notes from Marianne Guillaume Rozier, engineer and founder of the CovidTracker site which launched an interface on Sunday to follow the vaccination campaign in France. And indeed the figures are final. As of Wednesday evening, 332 doses of the vaccine had been administered in France against more than 78,000 in Germany, more than 16,000 in Portugal, 14,000 in Poland and 9,803 in Italy according to data from Our World in Data. In the United Kingdom, the indicator reached 800,000 doses on December 24, but vaccination started earlier than in the countries of the European Union, as of December 8.
The government justifies itself
On the government side, this blatant discrepancy is assumed. “I don’t confuse speed and haste“assured Tuesday on France 2 Olivier Véran. This delay in ignition is first of all the result of the vaccine strategy adopted, based on five phases of vaccination recommended by the High Authority of Health. The first which started concerns only elderly people residing in institutions, such as EPHA#Ds and professionals who work there if they are at risk (over 65 years of age or suffering from certain pathologies).
These populations are considered to be the most vulnerable and therefore a priority for receiving the vaccine, which is delivered to them on site. “This strategy has a consequence, it forces you to go more slowly, because you should know that there are approximately 14,000 establishments of this type in France and that the vaccine is difficult to transport, difficult to keep.“explained yesterday to Franceinfo Professor Alain Fischer, president of the Steering Committee for the vaccine strategy against Covid-19, specifying that 500,000 doses of vaccine have arrived in France this week and that 500,000 more are expected next week.
Unlike Germany, France did not choose to set up “vaccinodromes”, large centers for mass vaccination. Here too the government assumes. This strategy “hadn’t worked“in France at the time of the H1N1 flu according to the Minister of Health on France 2.
Caution under criticism
Another argument put forward by the executive to justify the delay: caution to reassure the French about the vaccine. In a country where the rate of vaccine skepticism is one of the highest in the world – only 44% of French people plan to be vaccinated compared to 65% in Germany and 81% in the UK according to a global survey by BVA and the WIN network published in Sunday Newspaper – the Minister of Health prefers to take “time for explanation, pedagogy“. The ministry insists in particular on the importance of consent to EPHAD residents, through a medical consultation no later than five days before the start of vaccination in the EPHAD.”The objective of the pre-vaccination consultation is to identify the absence of temporary or definitive contraindication to vaccination and to determine the risk benefit of vaccination for patients or residents.“and”provide the necessary information (indications, contraindications, known side effects, benefit / risk, etc.) so that the person can express their choice of whether or not to be vaccinated“explains the Ministry of Health in a vaccination guide. The resident can then decide to retract until the injection.
A caution displayed that the geneticist Axel Kahn, without denying the need for consent, considers counterproductive. “All the government communication insisting on precautions, added to the consent procedure, ends up convincing, not the vaccinosceptics who will remain so anyway, but the 20 to 30% who are hesitant that it really is very dangerous, it is is very uncertain since we take all these precautions“he explains to Marianne. “There is totally missing a breath, a momentum, there has to be the discourse that indicates that in the situation where we are, vaccination is a wonderful thing ” sums up the doctor. “There is no more time to wait!“launches for its part the National Academy of Medicine, suggesting in a communicated to simplify vaccination procedures in EPHA#Ds.
“The government seems to be looking for the strategy to be employed, between education and encouragement for vaccination. There were no strong messages in his favor, nor symbolic means. For example, no member of the government has played the game of staging their vaccination, as has been done in other European countries. ” believes Bruno Cautrès, researcher at the CNRS in an interview with Marianne.
Boost and change of strategy?
The government promises that the gap will be closed by the end of January. According to the objectives of the vaccination strategy, one million people, all those concerned by phase 1, must be vaccinated in January and February. But for that, we will have to move up a gear. According to our calculations, to hope to have a million people vaccinated by the end of February, we would need to vaccinate about 16,900 people every day. A number of daily injections that must even be doubled if we want these people to have also received the second dose of the Pfizer-#BioN#Tech vaccine, administered three weeks after the first. A rate from which France is still far: Wednesday only 194 people were vaccinated. The government ensures that the pace will intensify during the month of January.
But some are calling for a change in strategy. “The health situation is very worrying it is totally urgent to vaccinate caregivers“alert Axel Kahn,”it must be decided in the coming days, not to do this is a total aberration, a gigantic error in terms of public health“. Italy, for example, primarily vaccinates health professionals.
Others insist on the need for a territorialized strategy, targeting as a priority the territories most affected by the epidemic. What the government seems to be starting to hear. In Nice where the epidemic is particularly raging these days, the vaccination campaign was able to start early on Wednesday at the request of Christian Estrosi. “We have received 5,000 vaccines for Nice, the metropolis and the Alpes-#Maritimes department“underlines to Marianne Anthony Borré, first deputy mayor of Nice, “ne want to vaccinate next week the 2,300 EPHAD residents and the 1,700 people in independent residences” from the city. “We ask for a very territorialized application of the vaccine“summarizes the chosen one.
The pace of the next few months will also depend on the marketing of vaccines other than that of Pfizer-#BioN#Tech. A decision from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is expected on January 6 for that of Moderna.