France to administer coronavirus vaccine via pharmacies

AstraZeneca vaccine will be administered from March to all citizens between 50 and 64 years old

Nearly 700,000 doses will be delivered to the pharmacies in the coming weeks to enable administration from March. Illustration / AA

H. J. I. / AA

France will activate its vast network of pharmacies, a key pillar of its health care system, to provide coronavirus vaccine jabs to boost the pace of vaccinations, Health Minister Olivier Veran said Thursday.

From next month, the AstraZeneca vaccine will be available directly from pharmacies for all citizens between 50 and 64 years old, Veran said at a weekly health press conference.

He said the speed of the vaccination would gradually increase with accelerated deliveries. As of Thursday, 2,357,946 people had been injected with the first dose, which is currently only available via appointment through hospitals.

In order to further simplify access to vaccination, the public health authority on Feb. 2 recommended that midwives and trained pharmacists can prescribe and administer the AstraZeneca vaccine for people under the age of 65.

Nearly 700,000 doses will be delivered to the pharmacies in the coming weeks to enable administration from March. There are over 20,000 pharmacies spread across the country from small remote villages to medium townships to the big cities, which are already adept at administering the influenza vaccine.

The vaccine can be stored in the refrigerator for 48 hours after the first injection and up to 6 months before opening the vial, the public authority noted, while recommending its use on an outpatient basis.

People with comorbidities, having allergies, or pregnant, lactating women and those already infected by COVID-19 have been advised to take the vaccine from doctors.

Veran said although France was able to avoid a third lockdown nationally, there was uncertainty related to the variants, requiring high vigilance in the coming days.

A new study has forecast the rate of hospitalization and new cases to rise sharply in March if surveillance measures are not tightened. Currently, there is a nationwide curfew requiring all shops and establishments to close and traffic to cease movement from 6.00 p.m. to 6.00 a.m.

Detailing the steady rise in cases, Veran said a total of 36% of positive cases are of the UK variant, while the South African and Brazilian variants constitute 5%. In Dunkirk, located across the English channel, cases of the UK variant have risen alarmingly to 72%.

-The incidence is steadily increasing. It is 600 cases for 100,000 inhabitants- he said.

A total of 22,501 new cases and 271 deaths were recorded in the last 24 hours.

Although the health situation remains worrying for now, authorities are giving a go-ahead for organizers for the summer festivals.

In a meeting held Thursday with the organizers, the Ministry of Culture approved the seating of 5,000 people at the festival venues.

Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot announced an initial 30 million euro fund to support festivals that were forced to cancel performances.