French opposition to Covid jab falls as vaccination of over-75s begins

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France’s Covid vaccination programme is opening to people of 75 and older, with a new survey showing an uptick in acceptance of the vaccine as the number of cases continue to rise. The French government will announce new measures Thursday evening to try to keep down infections.

France's vaccination programme started slowly, but is picking up speed. Some five million people aged 75 and older are now eligible to sign up to get the first dose of the vaccine as of Monday.

A spokesperson for the health ministry said the website to locate vaccination centres was having connection problems on Thursday morning. Health minister Olivier Véran said on Twitter that access to appointments would be available for sure by Friday, and details would be provided at the government's weekly press conference on Thursday evening.

As of Wednesday, 247,000 people had received the first of the two doses of the vaccine.

"Thanks to everything that has been put in place, acceptance of the vaccine is increasing and that is an excellent thing,” said Prime Minister Jean Castex on a visit Thursday to a vaccination centre at a hospital in Metz in eastern France, a region which has seen some of the highest Covid rates since the beginning of the epidemic.

A survey published Thursday showed a nine percent increase in vaccine acceptance over the past week, with 47 percent of people saying they intended to get the vaccine.

The number of people who said they had no intention to get vaccinated went down six percent, with 13 percent of respondents saying they are still not sure.

The survey points to a correlation between those who say they have confidence in how the government is handling the Covid crisis and a willingness to get vaccinated: 73 percent of those who trust the government say they will get the vaccine, versus 32 percent of those who do not have confidence in the ruling majority.

At Thursday evening's press conference, Prime Minister Castex is expected to announce stronger measures to fight against growing infection rates, possibly extending to the whole country the 6pm curfew currently in place in 25 departments.

The rest of the country is already subject to an 8pm curfew, imposed in mid-December. Bringing the time forward by two hours would stall the so-called "apéro effect", said the leader of President Emmanuel Macron's Republic on the Move party, Stanislas Guerini, referring to the French tradition of meeting up for a pre-dinner apéritif.

(with wires)