France begins Covid-19 vaccinations as 78-year-old woman receives first dose

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A 78-year-old woman became the first person vaccinated against Covid-19 in France when she received the country's first dose at René-Muret Hospital in Sevran, Seine-Saint-Denis, outside Paris, according to an AFP journalist on site.

"I am moved," said the woman, named only as Mauricette, a former housekeeper, who was inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine around 11am on Sunday in the public hospital's long-term care unit. She smiled and was applauded by hospital staff after receiving the jab.

A 65-year-old cardiologist, Dr. Jean-Jacques Monsuez, was next to be vaccinated, shortly before 11:20am.

Some 20 seniors and healthcare workers are slated to receive the vaccine on Sunday during France's symbolic launch of the programme, in Sevran as well as in a geriatric care centre in Dijon.

Martin Hirsch, head of public hospital group APHP, tweeted a picture of a woman receiving the vaccination Sunday morning and wrote, "A little jab from the nurse, a big step for immunity, we hope."

The French government is aiming to have an initial one million people – consisting of seniors, vulnerable individuals and healthcare workers – vaccinated against Covid-19 by the end of February in the country's 7,000 nursing homes and related facilities.

European Union countries on Sunday embarked on the vaccination campaign hailed as the "key" to defeating Covid-19, as the growing spread of a new coronavirus variant intensified fears the pandemic could wreak further devastation.

The jab is a glimmer of hope for a continent still battling the pandemic in earnest, with infection rates again on the rise, lockdowns imposed and Christmas and New Year plans left in tatters for many.

The numbers vaccinated in the programme's initial days with the Pfizer-BioNTech jab are largely symbolic and it will be months before enough are protected to envisage a return to normal from the pandemic that has killed 1.76 million people worldwide since emerging in China late last year.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)