There are approximately five million people in France aged 75 and over, who will become eligible for the vaccination from January 18. This is likely to be followed by those aged 65-75 – around seven million people.
People in elderly care homes, and healthcare professionals aged 50 and over, are already eligible for the jab
Optional GP appointment
As part of the government’s goal to simplify the vaccination process, a GP appointment is not mandatory to receive the vaccine. However, any patient that wishes to do so is free to visit a GP to ask any questions they may have.
Any safety concerns can also be addressed separately, at the time of the vaccination.
Health Minister Olivier Véran said: “The perspective we have now is allowing us to simplify the process for the vaccinated person, without compromising at all on safety or quality. The vaccination strategy committee, headed by Professor Alain Fischer, is encouraging us to do this.”
From Thursday January 14, people aged 75 and over will be able to book appointments to get the vaccine through the online reservation platforms Doctolib, Maiia and KelDoc. or the government health site www.sante.fr
Stanislas Niox-Château, co-founder and president of Doctolib, told news source FranceInfo the reservation system would be “very simple, and very accessible”.
French vaccination rollout growing
The online reservation system for over 75s will run alongside current government efforts to vaccinate those most vulnerable to the virus, including patients and staff in elderly care homes and health workers aged over 50.
It will also run alongside a wider system announced by Health Minister Olivier Véran last week, in which people of all ages will be able to sign up to get a vaccine using doses that would otherwise go to waste at the end of the day.
Simple online system for eligible members of public
Mr Niox-Château said that reservations for vaccinations would be made in the same way as other medical appointments on the Doctolib platform, with the exception of extra questions being asked to confirm patients are in the 75-and-over age bracket.
To make an appointment, patients must create a log-in and then browse through a list of options on the site, before choosing the option that suits them best.
People can make appointments for both the injection and the later booster at the same time via the site, and family members can also make appointments for each other. Appointments can be modified or cancelled online if needed.
There is no charge for making appointments on Doctolib, and vaccination is completely covered by l’Assurance Maladie.
Mr Niox-Château said: “The objective is that people can make appointments in two clicks in a very simple way.”
These appointments will then take place in-person at one of the various vaccination centres set up across France. Currently, these are only open to health professionals aged 50 and over.
There are around 100 such centres across the country so far – around one per department – and a full list can be seen on the website sante.fr. The government has planned for there to be 300 centres by January 11, “gradually reaching 600 by the end of January”, Mr Castex has said.
The health minister explained: “Each commune will not have its own centre – it would not be practical given the number of doses and people to vaccinate. The department spread [of centres] has been decided in consultation with the state and local services.”
An interview or questionnaire for each patient
Appointments at the vaccination centres will begin with either an interview with a healthcare worker, or a questionnaire, to ensure that all questions about safety and side-effects are answered.
This process is intended to ensure that the patient:
- Has not had Covid-19 within the past three months
- Has not been vaccinated against flu within the past three weeks
- Does not have any severe allergies
- Does not have a fever or any other symptoms
- Is not following a treatment plan that is incompatible with vaccination
The health minister added: “If you would like to check with a doctor you can, because there will always be a doctor on-site at the centres.”
A vaccination in the shoulder
Once these conditions have been met and checked, the vaccination itself will take place.
This may be done by a doctor, a nurse, or another healthcare professional who is trained to administer vaccinations.
The vaccination is the same as many others – in that it is an “intramuscular” injection, administered in the shoulder/upper arm area.
As with other vaccinations, it is done with a brand new needle for each patient and only takes a few seconds. Patients may feel a slight pain or twinge, but nothing more.
After the vaccination, each patient is invited to remain on-site in the centre for 15 minutes, as a safety measure to check that there are no immediate unwanted side-effects. After that, patients are able to go home.
There could be some redness, slight pain, ache, or swelling around the site of injection for a few hours or days afterwards. This is normal and not cause for concern.
A second dose three-to-six weeks later
After the first injection, the patient will be invited to receive the second injection three-to-six weeks later. All the vaccines require two doses, spaced several weeks apart, to be effective.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was initially intended to be spaced three weeks apart, but this can be safely extended to six weeks, the health minister has confirmed, with this having also been approved by drug safety agency l’Agence du médicament (ANSM).
This decision was made based on clinical data showing that the vaccine’s effectiveness remains with a second injection “within a window of 19 to 42 days”, it said.