French health authorities stepped up the coronavirus vaccination campaign on Monday with thousands of inoculations after critics savaged Emmanuel Macron's government for lagging embarrassingly behind its European neighbours.
Macron, who has styled himself as the purposeful action man, was reported to be furious over the number of people in France who had received their jab compared with statistics from Germany and Britain.
He called a meeting with top advisors as well as health minister Olivier Véran and the prime minister, Jean Castex, on Monday to thrash out a new presentation of the vaccination project.
Véran emerged from the talks to announce thousands of injections would take place on Monday.
Health workers aged 50 and over could start to receive their jabs, said Véran. The initial plan had been to start vaccinating them from February.
With only 516 people innoculated since the programme started at the end of December, Macron’s administration sought a headline announcement as criticism rose not only over the slow pace of the vaccination roll-out but also the decision to send millions of children back to school after the Christmas holidays amid stubbornly high infection rates.
Virologists have warned that children are as vulnerable to the variants which were first detected in Britain and South Africa towards the end of December.
Education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer on Sunday insisted schools would resume with even stricter health controls but conceded the position could change.
“We are still capable of making adjustments in the future if necessary,” he told BFM TV. “We remain vigilant but the return to school can be organised."
More than 65,000 people have died from the coronavirus in France since January 2020. On Monday 12,000 new cases were registered.
Castex promised in early December that 1 million people would be vaccinated by the end of January.
The website CovidTracker, which collates French official public health data, estimates that to achieve the target, nearly 35,000 people would have to be vaccinated daily in France.