AstraZeneca vaccine 'to arrive in France by next week'
Ross Cullen in Rueil-Malmaison

France's vaccine chief Alain Fischer said on Tuesday he hoped the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine could be rolled out in the country by mid-February.

France's High Authority for Health is due to present its analysis of the vaccine and the French health secretary says he will base the government's strategy for the AstraZeneca jab on that report. 

The vaccine has already been approved by the European Union and it will become the third one in mass circulation across the bloc, following the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna jabs, which were approved at the end of 2020 and early last month. 

France's centralized bureaucracy means its domestic High Authority for Health must give the green light even though the vaccine already has European regulatory approval. 

The news of a third vaccine is a welcome break for the country's beleaguered vaccination program. 

Since December 27, approximately 1.5 million people have received their first dose in France, compared with 2.5 million in Germany and nearly 10 million in the UK. 

Supply-chain issues have meant three regions, including the Paris capital area, are also having to restrict the number of first injections they carry out and only focus on follow-up second doses. 

Speaking to CGTN Europe at a vaccination center to the west of the French capital, doctor Sebastian Marciano said the issues are clear to see. 

"We're not going fast enough. We should have vaccinated many more people," he tells us. 

"We had a goal by the end of February to vaccinate 4 million people but the way it's going, we'll probably be at around 2.5 million."

France was criticized earlier in the year for the slow pace of its vaccine efforts and now the supply-chain issues are forcing the center's staff to adapt once again. 

"When we first opened, we were ready to vaccinate 900 people per day," says Pauline Gateau, the manager at the vaccination hub. 

"Since then, the government informed us we would only have 420 doses a day. 

"So we had to rethink our planning. The people who were supposed to have their vaccine soon are now on a waiting list and when we get the doses, we'll call them to set up an appointment." 

Currently in France, the over-75s who do not live in care homes are able to go to vaccination centers for their inoculations. 

French ministers hope the new AstraZeneca vaccine will allow for an expansion of the strategy. 

In addition to vaccination centers like this, the French government says pharmacies are going to be able to inoculate people because the incoming AstraZeneca jab is easier to handle and conserve in ordinary drug stores than the other vaccines in operation.


Cover image: Ross Cullen

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