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国际英语新闻:News Analysis: Doses shortfall, delivery delay cast doubt over France's vaccination rollout

Source: Xinhuanet    2021-01-28  我要投稿   论坛   Favorite  

PARIS, Jan. 27 (Xinhua) -- With its gradual vaccination, France is racing to counter a resurgence in COVID-19 infections fuelled by more infectious variants, although many fear that doses shortfall and delivery delay may throw a spanner into the government's vaccination rollout.

When launching its vaccination campaign on Dec. 27 as part of a coordinated European plan, France opted for a gradual and free rollout, prioritizing elderly and vulnerable people to avoid a surge in serious cases and deaths.

Up to 1.4 million are set to have the first shot by the end of January, then the campaign would extend to nearly half of the 67 million inhabitants by the end of May and inoculate the total population by late August.

So far, the country has obtained 2,035,000 doses with a delivery pace of 520,000 doses per week for the Pfizer vaccine and 50,000 doses from Moderna.

It hopes to receive 2.6 million doses of vaccines by the end of January, and 137 million jabs by August to protect all French people, according to Health Minister Olivier Veran.

"If all the vaccines ordered are authorized by the health authorities and if the laboratories respect their commitments, we will achieve this goal," he tweeted last week.

SLOWER SUPPLIES

However, low vaccine deliveries are likely to cast doubt into the country's vaccination plan and delay an eventual return to normalcy, according to Jean-Francois Delfraissy, head of the scientific council that advises the government on the epidemic.

"Vaccine supply is going to be slower than what we had imagined... We will not have a shortage of vaccine, but we will have something that will be more spread out over time," Delfraissy told BFMTV television earlier this week.

In his estimation, France would vaccinate between 6 and 8 million people by mid-April, lower than the government's target of 15 million, and "about 40 percent of the population by the end of summer, but not more."

The less optimistic scenario was due to supplies' delay that drug companies announced. The U.S. drugmaker Pfizer recently said it would slow down its deliveries to the European Union (EU) at the end of January and early February to upgrade its production facilities in Belgium in order to ramp up shipments later on.

In a further blow, AstraZeneca, which developed a vaccine with the University of Oxford, unveiled last week it would cut supplies by the first quarter to the EU which had ordered at least 300 million doses provided that the vaccine is approved as safe and effective.

As a result, some vaccination centers in France were forced to delay the first injection due to doses shortfall.

It's the case in Bas-Rhin near German borders, one of the worst-hit zones by the coronavirus. The region's nine vaccination centers were forced to shut down on Jan. 25 and 26 to space out the appointments to ensure that the most vulnerable people can get the second shot.

In Ile-de-France, one of France's most populated regions, it's impossible to make an appointment for a first dose in the coming month, according to Doctolib online reservation platform.

"We would need to vaccinate several hundred thousand people per day to try to have a strong impact on this epidemic as quickly as possible. So there are still efforts to be made," Pascal Crepey, an epidemiologist, told Franceinfo radio on Monday.

"The impact of vaccination is immediate, but to observe it on a large scale there must be at least 15 percent, 20 percent of the population at risk who is vaccinated," he said.

According to data posted on Tuesday on Our World in Data website, 1.75 percent of French people have been inoculated so far, versus 10.79 percent in the United Kingdom, 2.76 percent in Spain and 2.29 percent in Germany.

TACKLING SHORTAGE

Meanwhile, France saw the share of people who are willing to be inoculated increasing by 50 percent, up by 12 percentage points from early January, an Elabe survey said on Wednesday.

Less public resistance in a country where skepticism of vaccines is common may be good music to the country's officials and experts that target a return to normalcy by the autumn 2021. However, it may trigger strong demand which could aggravate doses shortfall.

In a remedy, the French National Authority for Health (HAS) on Jan. 23 called for doubling the time between people being given the first and second COVID-19 doses to six weeks from three in order "to allow the treatment of at least 700,000 more people in the first month."

"The growing number of infections and the worrying arrival of new variants call for an acceleration of the vaccination campaign in order to prevent the epidemic from spiking in coming weeks," the HAS said in a statement.

Calling the recommendation legitimate, Health Minister Veran said France maintained the gap between the two shots within 21 to 28 days.

"We are faced with an unknown part. I am choosing the security of validated data," Veran said on Tuesday, adding that spacing out the two vaccinations would have a "minor impact on the pace of rollout."

To the epidemiologist Dominique Costagliola, spacing out the time between the two doses would "promote the emergence of vaccine-resistant variants."

"We take a bet by saying to ourselves that we can thus vaccinate more people. We do not really know how they will be protected," she told RTL radio.

"It's impossible to predict the future, maybe we will win, maybe we will lose," she added.


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