Boxes of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19 are stored at the AP-HP central pharmacy on December 26 in Paris. STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP
D-Day and glimmer of hope on Boxing Day: around twenty elderly people and caregivers will be the first French people to be vaccinated on Sunday, December 27 against Covid-19, at the end of a year bereaved by a virus that has caused more than 62,500 dead in the country. After the green light given on December 21 to the product of the American Pfizer and the German BioNTech by the European Union, almost all of its member states are simultaneously launching their vaccination campaign, opened one day in advance by Germany, Hungary and Slovakia.
The vaccine, sent to France on Saturday under good escort, was particularly expected in France, where the virus is actively circulating and the presence of its British variant, possibly more contagious, was confirmed on Friday in a patient.
About twenty people vaccinated this Sunday
The symbolic launch of the French vaccine campaign takes place on Sunday in two accommodation facilities for the elderly, one located in Seine-Saint-Denis, a department which has paid a heavy price for the Covid, the other in Bourgogne-Franche- County, one of the regions with the highest incidence rate of the virus.
In the morning, around ten residents over 75 years old from the long-term care unit of René-Muret hospital in Sevran (Assistance publique – Hôpitaux de Paris), as well as one of their doctors over 65 years old, will receive a first dose of the vaccine. At the beginning of the afternoon, it will be the turn of another ten residents of the geriatric center of Champmaillot, dependent on the CHU of Dijon, and a specialist doctor over the age of 65, to receive in turn the Pfizer-BioNTech, named Comirnaty in reference to the technology used (messenger RNA, mRNA in English).
A progressive vaccination campaign
The ramp-up of the vaccination campaign will be gradual: next week it will concern 23 establishments in the regions of Paris, Lyon, Lille and Tours, before intensifying to reach around a hundred places in the first two weeks of January. The government has set by the end of February the objective of one million vaccinated among the oldest and most vulnerable, individuals and caregivers, in the 7,000 nursing homes and other similar establishments.
Will follow “All retirees over 65” until spring, then the rest of the population aged 16 and over, again on a voluntary basis. The government hopes to have vaccinated “15 million people by this summer”, Matignon said on Saturday, a deadline slightly delayed compared to what had been envisaged.
Read also What is the schedule for the vaccination against Covid-19 in France?
Mistrust and uncertainties
In the country of Pasteur, skepticism about vaccines remains high: a majority of French people (56%) did not plan to be vaccinated against Covid-19, according to a BVA survey published by the Sunday newspaper and performed from December 11 to 14. Will vaccination only be effective in the face of new strains of the coronavirus? Everything leaves to “Think that vaccines are effective on these mutants”, wanted to reassure the Directorate General of Health on Saturday.
The question arises all the more acutely since the French authorities had confirmation, on Christmas Eve, of what they had feared for several days: the presence of the British variant of the virus on their territory, in Tours. The case concerns a Frenchman usually residing in the United Kingdom, who arrived from London on December 19, according to the Department of Health.
Read also: New confinements in Europe, where a vaccination campaign is preparing
The specter of a third confinement
“We cannot afford to let the epidemic flare up again”, warned in the Sunday newspaper the Minister of Health, Olivier Véran. Asked about the possibility of a third confinement, he said he was ready to take “The necessary measures, should the situation worsen”. Anyway, Olivier Véran sees a ” very good news “ in the launch of the vaccination campaign. “This vaccine protects 95% of individuals against severe cases and will save a lot of lives”, estimated the minister, satisfied to be able “Start protecting the most fragile among us”.
Read also Covid-19: a third confinement is not excluded, according to Olivier Véran
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