Europe to roll out Covid vaccine on Sunday, nursing homes first in France

·2-min read

France, along with the rest of Europe, is to kick start its Covid-19 vaccination campaign on 27 December, with the most vulnerable population in nursing homes the first to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech jab.

French Health Minister, Olivier Veran, said a few dozen elderly people will be inoculated with the Comirnaty vaccine this Sunday, followed by more in the beginning of January.

Trucks carrying the first batches of Comirnaty vaccines for EU citizens left the Pfizer plant in Belgium on Wednesday ahead of a rollout across the 27-nation bloc.

Member states are set to start issuing the Pfizer-BioNTech inoculations from 27 December after the European Union's medicines regulator gave the green light on Monday.

Veran said that “two or three” nursing homes located near Paris and Bourgogne will be the first ones to receive the vaccine on Sunday.

“We are not rushing,” Véran said, stressing the early phase of the vaccine campaign would be gradual and small-scale, aiming to create confidence in the vaccine.

France has one of the highest levels of vaccine scepticism in the world. Polls have shown that some 40-50 percent are not certain that they will get the Covid-19 vaccine.

France has ordered 200 million doses of the Comirnaty vaccine, enough to inoculate 100 million people - more than its population of nearly 70 million.

Of these, 1.16 million doses will arrive before the end of the year and another 2.3 million in the coming two months, according to the government.

'Liquid gold'

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is the only vaccine to have been approved in Europe so far, will be transported from Belgium by police escorts and drones.

Drivers, who have signed confidentiality agreements, will only be allowed to make brief stops in motorway rest areas, in order to check the temperature of their cargo.

The vaccines will then be delivered to around 100 secret storage locations, to be kept under surveillance before being given to medical professionals.

A source from Interpol told French public radio, France Info, that such measures were necessary as “the vaccine is liquid gold for 2021. It is the most precious thing to distribute in the coming year. The mafia and other criminal organisations are already prepared".