City of Nice opens France's biggest mass vaccination site

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NICE, France (Reuters) - Authorities in the city of Nice on Friday launched what they called France's biggest COVID-19 mass vaccination facility, with the aim of inoculating over 5,000 people in a day.

The cavernous halls of the city's exhibition centre were transformed into a vaccination centre, with long lines of people queuing outside - keeping safe distances between each other - for their turn to get the shot.

A three-piece fire service band performed patriotic French music to keep the people queuing entertained, and Christian Estrosi, the former professional motorcycle racer who is now mayor of the city, showed up to give his encouragement.

"Welcome. You will leave this place even stronger than when you arrived," Estrosi said to a man and a woman waiting outside the exhibition centre.

His office said 5,200 people had been signed up to receive their vaccinations at the site, which is using the COVID-19 shot manufactured by Pfizer.

The mayor's office said no other COVID-19 vaccination site in France had the same capacity as the facility in Nice.

France is racing to accelerate its vaccination programme after a slow start. In Britain, 47% of the population has been vaccinated with at least one dose, while in France the figure is 14%, according to Reuters data.

France is counting on the vaccinations to help it emerge from a third wave of COVID-19 infections that has left some intensive care units close to overflowing.

(Reporting by Eric Gaillard; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Giles Elgood)