France extends vaccination rollout to firefighters, aid workers

France has been slow off the mark, delivering just 516 Covid-19 inoculations during the first week of a campaign that focused on nursing home residents.
France has been slow off the mark, delivering just 516 Covid-19 inoculations during the first week of a campaign that focused on nursing home residents.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (REUTERS) - France is widening its Covid-19 vaccination rollout to firefighters and aid workers aged over 50 after making a slow start to its inoculation campaign, Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Tuesday (Jan 5). 

"We are going to amplify, accelerate and simplify our vaccination strategy," Mr Veran told RTL radio, adding that 300 vaccination centres would be operational from next week. 

France on Monday had accelerated its Covid-19 vaccination of medical staff in hospitals after being criticised for a slow start in one of the most vaccine-sceptical countries in the world.

France delivered only 516 Covid-19 inoculations during the first week of a campaign that focused on nursing home residents. 

The sluggish start compared with European neighbours such as Britain and Germany has irritated President Emmanuel Macron, who met with his prime minister and health minister on Monday evening to discuss how to speed up deployment of the vaccine. 

Mr Veran also told RTL that by the end of January France would authorise the vaccination of people aged 75 and above who are living at home. 

"We are also going to accelerate orders of vaccines at European level to intensify the delivery pace for France. Today we have a delivery pace of 500,000 doses per week for the Pfizer vaccine. Soon if it is validated on Wednesday by the European Medical watchdog, we will have 500,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine per month," he said.

Mr Veran said there were about 10-15 possible cases in France of the new British variant of the coronavirus.  

The overall high level of coronavirus infections in France also made easing Covid-19 related restrictions unlikely.

Restaurants, bars, museums and cinemas remain shut and are not expected to re-open on Jan 20 as initially planned.  

Prime Minister Jean Castex will address their situation at a news conference on Thursday, Mr Veran said.  

France’s total number of cases now stands at 2,659,750, the fifth-highest in the world. 

The Covid-19 death toll is at 65,415, the seventh-highest in the world.