From Thursday France begins the rollout of vaccine delivery in the community via doctors and workplaces, as the French Health ministry announced in a directive to médecins généralistes (family doctors or GPs).
Here’s who qualifies and when.
From Thursday, February 25th deliveries of the AstraZeneca vaccine will begin for GPs who want to sign up to administer it. Workplace doctors (médecins du travail) can also sign up to administer the vaccine.
Previously, the vaccine was only being given in hospitals and vaccine centres, or in nursing homes for residents, but the government wants to gradually increase the rollout so that GPs and pharmacies will also be able to administer it.
The deliveries to GPs from February 25th represents the first stage in the community rollout and it is intended that it will then be expanded to nurses, midwives and pharmacies.
Workplace doctors are also included, so people who fall into eligible groups can also be vaccinated in their workplace or at workplace medical centres.
The vaccine going to family and workplace doctors is intended for a very specific group – those aged between 50 and 64 and with an underlying health condition such as diabetes or respiratory illnesses.
How many doses?
In total 700,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are reserved for injection by GPs. However initially each GP will only get one vial of 10 doses, in order to avoid wastage. The order will then be gradually increased over the following weeks.
The extra stocks will be sent to pharmacies and doctors have to sign up to receive weekly deliveries. Not all GPs have chosen to sign up to this, and with only 10 doses per week per doctor to start with, competition for the appointment slots is likely to be fierce.
It is up to individual doctors to decide how to prioritise their patients.
Who else can be vaccinated?
France is doing its vaccine rollout in stages, with the most vulnerable going first.
Some people are already eligible – over 75s, people under 75 with serious health conditions (eg cancer or transplant patients) health workers and residents and staff at Ehpad nursing homes.
Only people aged under 75 and with a health condition need a prescription to be vaccinated, everyone else can make an appointment directly with a vaccine centre – although in some areas there are severe shortages of available appointments.
Doesn’t this miss out the 65-74 age group?
Yes, people aged 65-74 who don’t have a serious health condition don’t yet qualify for injections in vaccine centres – but are also not eligible to get the injection from a GP, and plenty of people are pretty cross about that.
The government says the reason for this is the type of vaccines – the GPs will be using the AstraZeneca vaccine, as this does not need super-cold storage so is more practical to be administered in the community, but in France it is only licensed for use on the under 65s.
The vaccine centres, on the other hand, use Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, which can be used on any age group. The next age group to become available for treatment in vaccine centres will be the 65-74s, but as yet no date has been released.
The latest figures show that 2,656,447 people in France have received a Covid injection, of which 1, 319, 292 have received both doses and are therefore fully vaccinated.