PARIS – More than a week after the launch of the French COVID-19 vaccination campaign, only a few thousand people across the country have received their first injection, with President Emmanuel Macron’s vaccination strategy widely criticized for being imperfect, too slow and bow to anti -vaxxers.
Only 516 people in France had received their first dose of vaccine as of January 1, according to the independent site Covid Tracker, compared to 114,000 in Italy, 238,000 in Germany and more than one million people in the United Kingdom. 5,000 ”, but the Ministry of Health has not yet confirmed the exact number. If the objective of deploying French vaccines of one million vaccinations at the end of January is to be reached, 36,000 injections must be performed each day.
In interviews with The Daily Beast, French doctors criticized the country’s approach to vaccine deployment, highlighting “poorly judged” political decisions, lack of information communicated to health workers and lack of preparedness .
As a first step, the French strategy was to prioritize vulnerable groups in nursing homes, providing for a two-week process for carrying out each vaccination, including a medical consultation, patient approval and injection. -even. However, slow adoption and reports of large numbers of home patients refusing the vaccine forced a change of plan.
As of Monday, the recommended period for vaccination has been reduced to one week and the focus has changed, with doctors, nurses and caregivers over the age of 50 now able to volunteer to be vaccinated immediately. The city’s vaccination centers are expected to open before the start of February.
Nathan Peiffer-Smadja, an infection specialist at Bichat hospital in Paris, criticized the decision to start vaccination in retirement homes. “It was too complicated, it shouldn’t have started there,” he said. “If anything the [slow pace of the] strategy encouraged anti-vaxxers. Medically and scientifically, there is no reason for this to be done slowly. On the contrary, it must be done as quickly as possible. “
“At this rate, it would take 3,000 years to achieve collective immunity,” said Professor Bruno Megarbane, head of the medical and toxicological resuscitation unit at Lariboisière hospital in Paris. “But for the official authorities, there was no delay in the deployment of the vaccine. For them, this deployment is the official vaccination strategy – even if observers like me say there has been a delay. Especially when vaccine doses are now unnecessarily placed in freezers, not being used. “
Megarbane is “confident” that the speed of vaccination will increase, but is concerned about the lack of information shared with hospitals. “We have no information,” he added. “We don’t know when the vaccination will start, who can get the vaccine or who will be allowed to perform the vaccinations.”
Some worry about the longer term implications of France’s slow start. Dr Arnaud Fontanet, epidemiologist and member of the Scientific Council, estimates that 12% of French people have contracted COVID-19 to date but that “the virus will not stop circulating epidemically” until at least half of the population has been vaccinated.
“My concern is not so much for the first few weeks,” he added. “I am concerned that we are facing a global demand for these vaccines. In three months, we will have sufficient doses for Europe and the rest of the world. “
On Monday, the French government will launch a citizens’ committee made up of 35 non-expert French people selected at random to help decide on the country’s vaccine strategy. Composed of representatives of different demographics such as age, sex, region, level of qualification and socio-professional category, the committee’s vocation is to “feed the executive and legislative power” with the vaccination campaign and “take into account count their responses ”.
In the midst of an unprecedented health crisis, however, the creation of a lay group to advise on policy has led to perplexity.
“The French are skeptical about vaccines despite our great elders like Pasteur,” said Emmanuel Andrès, head of the internal medicine department of Strasbourg University Hospitals and chairman of the medical commission. “Personally, I don’t really see how a citizens’ committee could be useful in defining French vaccination policy.
The government’s mixed messages on the plans did not help matters. On Sunday, the Minister of Transport, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, told BFM-TV that the objective was to “vaccinate 26 million people by the summer”, in contradiction with the target of 15 million set by the Prime Minister Jean Castex in front of parliament in December. Gabriel Attal, the government spokesperson, was then forced to specify that “the priority objective” is 15 million by the summer.
In the comments disclosed to Sunday newspaper On Sunday, Macron complained that the government’s vax program has all the urgency of a “family walk” and that “the government has not grasped the gravity of the moment”. The report quotes a high-level ministerial source saying that health authorities unable to organize mass vaccination “present a constraint as a strategy”.
Macron has also come under heavy criticism in the national media for the latest misstep. “While America, Israel, Great Britain, Germany gallop, France advances at the speed of the snail. Champion of restrictions, gold medal of certificates, she is last in solutions ”, we read in an editorial in Le Figaro, a daily.
The French government has received 560,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and as of Wednesday it expects to receive an additional 500,000. But the first two deliveries of vaccines at the end of December 2020 – 60,000 first, then 500,000 doses – were only sent to 40 hospitals, out of the hundred reference centers selected by the state.
In addition to the slow rollout of the vaccine, Macron is under pressure for failures in public education that put anti-vaxxer sentiment at nearly 60% and the fact that the French vaccine Sanofi will be delayed until the end. of 2021 while Germany’s Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine and the British vaccine Oxford-AstraZeneca have already been deployed.
An Odoxa survey for Le Figaro, which was released on Sunday but carried out on December 22 and 23, found that the majority of the population is still hesitant to be vaccinated, with a refusal rate of 58%. This is an increase of 8 points from the previous month, when the first vaccines were given the green light.
But in France, the arrival of the UK variant of SARS-CoV-2, suspected of being more contagious, has raised concerns. The director general of health, Jérôme Salomon, declared that “the trend is already worrying”. Even though the impact of the festive period is not yet known, he said: “We have had a gradual increase since the beginning of December”.
Currently, 24,780 patients are hospitalized in France because of COVID-19, including 2,665 in intensive care, according to data from Public Health France. A total of 65,037 people have died since the start of the pandemic.
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