The health authorities recommended Monday to vaccinate residents of nursing homes as a priority against Covid-19, setting the timetable for a high-risk campaign for the government, which will have to convince the reluctant and ensure flawless logistics.
Who to protect first? “The most vulnerable and those who care for them”, summarized Monday the president of the High Authority of Health (HAS), Dominique Le Guludec, during an online press point.
The HAS recommended that the elderly living in nursing homes, around 750,000 people, and the employees of these establishments presenting “A serious risk” because of their age or their health, that is to say 90,000 to 100,000 people, are targeted by the first phase of vaccination.
With more than 16,000 deaths among their residents (out of a total of 52,000) and drastic restrictions on family visits, the nursing homes have paid a very heavy price for the Covid-19 epidemic.
The schedule proposed by the HAS then breaks down into four other phases: the elderly (in priority the 75 years old) and the health personnel, then the more than 50 years old, then the people whose profession favors an infection and the vulnerable people and in precariousness, and finally the rest of the population.
Emmanuel Macron assured that the first stage would begin “Probably from the end of December, beginning of January, subject to validation by the health authorities”, first of all the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which is examining three vaccine candidates (Pfizer / BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca / University of Oxford). Pharmaceutical groups have competed for promising announcements on their effectiveness, but without detailed scientific publication.
Prime Minister Jean Castex also promised that “The strategy and organization that we are putting in place for the vaccine” would be presented this week, while questions remain on the role entrusted to general practitioners and local authorities. At the Ministry of Solidarity and Health, AFP is confirmed “speaking”, probably Thursday, while warning that “The plan will become clearer as and when” and “Several logistics parameters are being planned”.
The logistical challenge is enormous, for the supply and storage of vaccines – those of Pfizer and Moderna need to be kept at very low temperature – as well as to reach the targets concerned, while opinion surveys report a reluctant population.
“I think things will change once the vaccines are available, administered”, hoped the president of the HAS. “Probably that there will be something else that will happen, there will be concrete information. Here we are in the speculative, with a lot of false information circulating ”, added Dominique Le Guludec.
In any case, the return to a normal life will take several months. Not before “autumn” 2021 and provided that “80 to 90%” of the population get vaccinated, had estimated last week the epidemiologist Arnaud Fontanet, member of the Scientific Council, who guides the choices of the government.
By then, the risk of an epidemic rebound and a third wave is not ruled out, warn health experts. 408 people have died from Covid in hospital in the past 24 hours, according to figures from health authorities released Monday evening. The total number of Covid-related hospitalizations was stable on Monday, at 28,229 patients – the peak of 33,000 was reached on November 16.
France was able to start a new phase of lightened confinement this weekend, with the reopening of shops and travel restrictions for walking a little less strict (3 hours and 20 km against 1 and 1 km since October 30). Emmanuel Macron announced that if the situation improves, by setting the target of 5,000 contaminations per day, it would be the turn of cinemas, theaters and museums to reopen on December 15, when travel restrictions will also be removed in anticipation of Christmas and New Year.
On Sunday, the government suffered another snub, the Council of State ordering it to return “Within three days” on its measure limiting religious ceremonies to 30 people.
For their part, faced with the prospect of seeing the ski resorts closed at Christmas, professionals in the mountain sector do not want to admit defeat and noted Monday during a meeting with the government “Inconsistencies” at “European level” with border countries (Switzerland, Spain) which will have their stations open. The government has promised a device to compensate losses related to closed ski lifts.