France is to kick off its coronavirus vaccination campaign at the end of this month, Prime Minister Jean Castex has said, “if conditions are met”.
However non priority groups will have to wait until the “end of spring”, he added.
The rollout will begin at the last week of December if the European Medicines Agency authorises vaccine marketing on December 21, as expected, and it will also depend on an opinion from the High Health Authority.
Castex told the National Assembly those at risk will be vaccinated first, with a period of 21 days in between the first vaccination and the booster.
Nearly 14 million people with an age-related risk factor or a health condition, along with some health professionals, will then be vaccinated in a second step.
The rest of the population will then be targeted in a third step at the end of spring, a slight shift from his earlier indications that this phase would start from the spring.
Insisting on "trust" and "transparency", Castex announced "that a medical consultation will be offered before the act of vaccination and that it should be organised under medical supervision".
"No vaccination will take place without informed consent having been expressed", he added.
He also stressed that "the start of the vaccination campaign will not mark the end of the epidemic". Therefore, the requirement for ongoing restrictions will remain in place for the coming months.
Castex added that testing capacity is to be ramped up with the recruitment of 4,000 more people, while thousands more nurses and social support workers would be mobilised to visit sick people who have decided to self isolate.
Experts say up to 70% of the population needs to be vaccinated for COVID-19 to be eradicated - however a Euronews survey suggested that only a little more than a third of French people would take a low-cost COVID-19 vaccine, based on the responses.
The survey, conducted in October, showed just 37% of French people questioned would take a low-cost vaccine if it came available in the next year.