France's vaccination efforts are starting to ramp up, but some people are tired of waiting for a jab – and they're trying new tricks to get one faster.
The country, which fell behind in its quest to develop its own vaccine like other major nuclear powers – the United States, the UK, China and Russia – will finally begin bottling doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab on its soil from Wednesday (April 7).
And thousands of people across France have been lining up for shots over Easter weekend, as the government tries to accelerate its COVID-19 immunisation campaign. Nearly one million jabs have been administered in the last three days alone, bringing the total given so far to 12 million.
While many French people are hesitant about vaccination, some are eager to get a jab as soon as possible, and they're eagerly turning to two new online initiatives for help, both of which were developed independently from government authorities.
"Vite ma dose" (Quick, my dose) scouts a person's entire region for the next available vaccination slots. The tool was created by Guillaume Rozier, the IT engineer behind a very popular French website, Covidtracker, which tracks new infections, COVID-19 patients in intensive care, as well as the country’s vaccine rollout.
The search tool only works for people who are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. Currently, that includes all people over the age of 70, as well as people over 50 who have underlying diseases.
'No jab wasted'
Another website, however, effectively allows people to jump the queue and get vaccinated with doses that would normally be destined for priority groups, but that risk going to waste when people don’t show up for their appointments.
Some vaccines such as the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna jabs indeed require complex storage conditions at ultra-low temperatures. When a vial is thawed, and people drop out of their appointment at the last minute, the shots need to be given quickly to others, or else they get wasted.
Called Covidliste, the tool is open to anybody in France willing to get a COVID-19 vaccine, regardless of their age or health status. All they have to do is provide their contact details for a chance to get called up by a vaccination centre nearby that happens to have extra doses on a given day. The list requires responsiveness: users who doesn’t promptly reply indeed risk missing their chance, as the centres will call the next available volunteers on the list. Covidliste had more than 200,000 users registered as of Easter Monday.
When President Emmanuel Macron announced last week that France would enter its third nationwide lockdown, he pledged to speed up the country’s vaccination campaign, and to open it to all adults by mid-June.
Currently, only health care workers, care home staff, people over the age of 70, those over 50 who have underlying diseases or younger people deemed high-risk such as cancer patients or dyalisis patients are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine in France.
From April 15, the government plans to open up vaccination to people aged 60 to 69 with no underlying conditions, as well as people who are deemed essential workers, such as teachers. From mid-May, people aged 50 to 59 will become eligible as well.