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France's vaccination plan: Fragile first then general public from April

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A man is helped before being tested with a PCR COVID test in a nursing home of Ammerschwihr, eastern France, Monday, Nov.9, 2020.
A man is helped before being tested with a PCR COVID test in a nursing home of Ammerschwihr, eastern France, Monday, Nov.9, 2020.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias
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A targeted vaccination campaign for people who live in nursing homes will start "as soon as possible" in France, it was revealed on Tuesday.

President Emmanuel Macron said that the "highly targeted vaccination campaign" would be followed by a "second wave of vaccination" between April and June for the more general public.

"It will not be a compulsory vaccination strategy but a strategy of conviction and transparency," Macron said.

Prime Minister Jean Castex, meanwhile, confirmed to the National Assembly that elderly people residing in care homes would be vaccinated as a priority against COVID-19 in line with the health authority's recommendations.

They are often most at risk for complications and death due to severe COVID-19 and should be given priority "given the limited number of doses that will be available at the start of the vaccination campaign", the High Authority for Health said on Monday.

It also recommended a vaccination campaign in five phases once a COVID-19 jab is approved.

The distribution plan comes as companies behind three vaccine candidates recently announced promising efficacy results, sparking hope that the first vaccines could be distributed at the end of 2020 or the beginning of 2021.

The plan in France is meant "to protect and prioritise the most vulnerable and those who care for them", said Dominique Le Guludec, the high authority president.

Those who work in care homes should also be prioritised, the high authority said, especially older people or those with co-morbidities who risk developing a severe form of the illness.

The recommendations will be "updated and adapted according to the data on each vaccine, their actual availability and possible supply issues", the health authority said.

Castex plans to lay out the government's vaccine plan on Thursday.

France has counted more than 2.2 million cases of COVID-19 and over 52,000 deaths due to the virus.

Phases of distribution

In the second phase of distribution, all people over the age of 75, between the ages of 65 and 74 with co-morbidities would receive the vaccine. They would be followed by all individuals between the ages of 65 and 74.

Health professionals over the age of 50 or presenting a risk factor will also be prioritised in phase two. All health professionals, security and education workers will be vaccinated in phase three.

Phase four would be vaccination for those who have jobs that put them in contact with the public and for those in a precarious situation such as prison or psychiatric patients.

The final phase will see the vaccine become available to all people over the age of 18 and without co-morbidities "provided that the vaccine dose allocations have been sufficient to vaccinate each of the priority populations".

French authorities have said there is no plan to make the vaccine mandatory, given serious concerns in the country about its safety. Recent surveys have found that France has one of the highest rates of vaccine mistrust in Europe.

Experts have long said that an effective and safe vaccine is the best way to end the pandemic. Many are concerned that vaccine confidence could impact the campaigns and fight against COVID-19.