France accelerating Covid- 19 vaccinations, media reports

A nurse administering a vaccine at the hospital Hotel-Dieu in Paris, on Jan 2, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (BLOOMBERG) - France is accelerating Covid-19 vaccinations after a slow start, according to government spokesman Gabriel Attal.

Medical staff aged more than 50 years started being vaccinated this weekend, Mr Attal told the Le Parisien in an interview published in the newspaper's Sunday edition (Jan 3).

"The choice to first protect the populations most at risk, which demands greater logistics and precautions, necessarily led to a gradual start," he was cited as telling the newspaper.

"We take responsibility for it but, as the president of the Republic said, this cannot justify unnecessary delays."

France's government is under pressure after a much slower debut of the vaccination campaign than most other European countries.

As of Dec 31, only 352 people had got at least one dose of the vaccine, versus 131,626 in Germany and 944,539 in the UK, according to data cited by Le Parisien.

French President Emmanuel Macron is angry about the slow pace and told people close to him that "things must change fast and hard and will change fast and hard", another newspaper, Journal du Dimanche, reportedon Sunday, without saying where it obtained the information.

About 65,000 people have already died from Covid-19 in France, and the number of new coronavirus cases has been rising since the country's second lockdown was lifted in mid-December. Mr Macron said in televised speech last Thursday the first few months of 2021 will be difficult, until vaccinations are ramped up.

The delays are "incomprehensible", Dr William Dab, an epidemiologist and former French public health chief, told Le Parisien in a separate interview.

"We can't continue vaccinating 300 French people a week," Dr Dab was cited as saying. "Otherwise we'll still be at it in 5,000 years."

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