France has been heavily criticized for its slow approach to COVID-19 vaccines, inoculating just 516 people in the first week since the vaccine was delivered.
In the same time period, Germany vaccinated more than 200,000 people and Italy inoculated more than 100,000 citizens.
One reason for the delay, experts have said, is that France adopted a more cautious approach to vaccines, requiring a pre-vaccination visit and the express consent of the vaccinated person.
The pre-vaccination visit should take place five days before the delivery of the vaccine, the Ministry of Health said in a 45 page guide on launching the vaccine in nursing homes.
Health Minister Olivier Véran said that this “informed consent” process was a “show of confidence” for the French.
But critics at home are lining up, with French Green Party MEP Yannick Jadot calling the vaccination launch a “fiasco” and right-wing European MP Geoffroy Didier saying he was “ashamed” of France.
Eric Ciotti and Damien Abad, both members of Parliament for the right-wing Republicans, requested a meeting with the Health Minister to discuss the slow vaccinations, sending a letter on Wednesday that said: “France cannot be one of the last countries to vaccinate “. “
On Monday, amid mounting criticism, President Emmanuel Macron planned to hold a meeting to discuss the strategy, the Elysee said in a statement sent to AFP.
The vaccination strategy has already been slightly adjusted.
France’s High Health Authority recommended that vulnerable people living in residences or other collective accommodation be vaccinated first, but now the country will allow health workers over 50 to have access to vaccines as well.
“I asked the hospitals to immediately open vaccination to health professionals [over] 50 years, “Véran tweeted on Saturday, in what many saw as an effort to advance the effort.
However, he noted that some countries, including the Netherlands, have yet to start their vaccination campaigns.
“Terrified that there would be fierce opposition, the government appears to be backing down, apologizing for having to vaccinate,” Axel Kahn, director of the National League against Cancer, told France Inter radio on Monday.
Kahn said the country needed to simplify the process and not discourage people from getting vaccinated.
Some have suggested that the country has been overly cautious due to unfavorable public support for vaccines.
France consistently has one of the highest rates of vaccine vacillation in the world, with some studies suggesting that only 59% would receive a COVID-19 vaccine if it were available. The government has said it wants to win the public’s trust.
“The vaccine is an extraordinary opportunity, you do not have to be afraid of getting vaccinated, or of not having access to it. Little by little, everyone can be protected, in order of priority, as the vaccines are delivered to us, ”said Véran.
The launch comes as infections spike in France after the holidays and the entire country remains under a strict curfew.
Many are also concerned that the UK and South African variants of the coronavirus, which officials say are more communicable, could contribute to the rise in infections.
Kahn wrote on Twitter that he was calling for a change in France’s vaccine strategy because it was “established” with the idea that there would be 5,000 infections per day and that it “no longer adapts to the current reality and threats from [new COVID-19] variants “.
“France will catch up”
“I think it’s a matter of time. France will catch up, there’s no question. It could be bureaucracy, all kinds of reasons why these things take a little longer,” said Luke O’Neill, professor of Biochemistry and Immunology at the Trinity College. Dublin.
Speaking to Euronews, he mentioned that the UK, Germany, Denmark and Croatia performed better than their European peers in launching vaccines.
“In two weeks, I suspect everyone will catch up. There will be mass vaccination across Europe, that should be the goal,” O’Neill said.
See the highlights of the interview in the video player above.
The EU defends the inoculation strategy
The European Commission has also defended its coronavirus vaccination strategy, amid mounting criticism from member states about the slow rollout of COVID-19 injections across the region.
Some EU members have been quick to blame the bloc’s executive arm for an alleged failure to administer the correct amount of doses.
In Finland, health authorities are reportedly unhappy that the country only received around 40,000 doses in December, instead of the 300,000 that were expected.
Facing a flood of questions about vaccines during a press conference on Monday, EU Commission spokesman Eric Mamer said that the main problem with the deployment of vaccination programs “is a production capacity problem … a problem everyone faces. “
As part of its strategy, the EU has sealed six vaccine contracts with Moderna, AstraZeneca, Sanofi-GSK, Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, Pfizer-BioNTech and CureVac.
But only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been approved for use so far in the 27-nation bloc with 450 million people.
The EU health regulator is expected to decide on Wednesday whether to recommend authorizing the Moderna vaccine.
Mamer also clarified the commission’s role in winning contracts with potential drug manufacturers.
He said the commission did not directly purchase vaccine doses but “acted as an investor” to provide financing to pharmaceutical companies developing vaccines.
The goal was to accelerate production capacities and research, with all EU nations free to decide how many doses they would buy from vaccine producers of their choice.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism