As part of the ongoing fight against Covid-19, the French government has said that you now only need to wait three months since your previous dose before getting a booster shot. This waiting time was previously set at four months.
From January 15th, health passes for those over the age of 18 begin to be deactivated and made invalid if they have not received a Covid booster shot within seven months of their second dose of the vaccine. This rule already applies to people over the age of 65.
There is a handy online tool to allow you to know when you need a booster dose HERE. If you use the TousAntiCovid app, the home-screen will change colour as you are approaching the date when you must get another shot.
The government also plans to implement a vaccine pass, to replace the health pass, from mid-January. This would mean that negative Covid test results would not longer be able to be used as a replacement for a full course of vaccination as a means to enter various public venues.
These new rules mean that there has been a surge in demand for vaccine appointments. Some people have reported lengthy waiting times and lamented the lack of availability of appointments near them.
But there are some things you can do to speed up the process:
Walk-in booster shots for the over 65s
On Monday 6th December Prime Minister Jean Castex announced that over 65s would be able to simply walk into vaccination centres without an appointment, to receive on-the-spot vaccination. But, again, anecdotal reports from over-65s trying to get their booster before their health pass becomes invalid around the country suggest that the reality on the ground is very different.
Officially, unvaccinated people can also receive their first shot without making an appointment.
Some over-30s attending some vaccine centres in France are being offered the unwanted Moderna vaccine, even if they have requested a dose of Pfizer on booking their appointment. Reports again suggest that some people are rejecting this option, prefering the Pfizer dose which is by far the most commonly injected vaccine against Covid-19 in France.
The regular route
When it comes to actually booking appointments, the process is the same as it has always been.
You can book a vaccine appointment either a vaccine centre (although some of the larger ones have closed since the summer), your GP/family doctor or a pharmacy. You can book appointments for GPs and pharmacies in person or by phone, or you can book online for appointments at all three venue types.
You can also book via Doctolib – France’s most used booking app/website. It is important to check Doctolib regularly and under the availabilities section of the search tool, to tick dans les trois prochains jours (‘in the next three days’).
It’s worth checking doctolib regularly because new appointment slots are made available frequently.
All of these options are relatively straightforward but don’t get around the problem of soaring demand.
ViteMaDose is an app and website that allows you to search for the next available vaccine appointments based on your postcode, commune or département.
It works by aggregating data from from most of the vaccine sites in France as well as online booking platforms, such as Doctolib.
Once you have identified the next available slot in your area using the search bar, you must then book an appointment via the ‘regular route’ described above.
Covidliste is another app and website that sends you an alert when a vaccine appointment becomes available near you. It already has more than one million users.
When a vaccine administrator finds that they have doses available, they contact Covidliste. The organisation then sends out an email to all of its subscribers (subscription is free) to let them know. By the end of the day, if doses are still available, the site will then send out a further alert via SMS.
The advantage of this site is that it allows you to directly accept an appointment via the booking link sent out to you by email/SMS.
The analogue method
It doesn’t hurt to ask you local pharmacist, either by phone or in-person, about when the next vaccine appointment is available in your area.
Not all pharmacists and other vaccine administrators are hooked up to the booking websites, meaning that there may be doses waiting for you that are simply not listed online. The only way to know whether this is the case is by calling your pharmacy directly.
Will boosters be effective against the new Omicron variant?
The French government insists that while booster shots do not entirely prevent infection from the Omicron variant, they do help to avoid people falling seriously ill following transmission.
“Vaccination remains at the heart of our strategy,” said Jean Castex on Monday. “It prevents serious forms of Covid-19.”
According to the early laboratory research using blood serum from vaccinated people, a booster third dose generated around the same level of antibodies against Omicron as is seen after a second dose with other variants.