France may start Covid-19 vaccinations in last week of December, PM says

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People in France could start receiving the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer/BioNTech in the last week of December if European Union authorities approve it next week, French Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Wednesday.

Castex told parliament that the vaccine campaign in France would then be stepped up in January, with the elderly and other more vulnerable groups coming first in the queue.

France has already pre-ordered 200 million doses of coronavirus vaccines, Castex added.

The government is hoping to give jabs to around one million people in nursing homes during January and February, and then a further 14-15 million people in the wider population between March and June.

France is waiting for the EU’s regulatory agency to approve a vaccine. The European Medicines Agency has brought forward a meeting on the issue to December 21 from December 29.

“Likely that the first Europeans will be vaccinated before end 2020,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

Like many other European countries, France has been battling a resurgence of the pandemic in recent weeks, despite a month-long lockdown that ended on Tuesday.

The number of daily new cases has failed to fall below the official target of 5,000. Consequently, government has opted for a less extensive loosening of restrictive measures than initially planned.

On Tuesday, health authorities reported 11,532 new Covid-19 infections over the previous 24 hours, up from Monday's 3,063 but largely stable from Sunday's 11,533.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)