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ponedeljek, 19 aprila, 2021

French inoculation drive veers off track

By: V4 Agency

The closed inoculation points, the disagreements between mayors, the millions of citizens placed on priority vaccination lists and a lack of trust from people have all played a role in France’s derailed vaccination drive. Teachers’ unions are afraid that professors will not be inoculated by the time face-to-face education could resume in schools.

The French government has acknowledged that mass vaccination is the most effective way to combat the pandemic, but it has failed to roll out a smooth an efficient inoculation drive. Although some stadiums and military hospitals have been involved in the campaign and placed on active standby, many refuse to take the available jabs and, as a result, authorities were forced to shut down many inoculation points in the north-eastern Nord and Pas-de-Calais départements this weekend.

According to Mayor Natacha Bouchart of Calais, one of the affected cities, the government needs a massive, nationwide communications campaign to persuade people of the importance of the jab, and that each and every vaccine is safe.

Inoculation points in Paris have also hit a snag, even though doctors and nurses at the national Stade de France stadium, which has also been converted into a vaccination hub, will start administering jabs today. According to the operators of the Doctolib.fr registration site, there are plenty of available time slots, even though these are actively promoted and advertised on Twitter.

Disagreements between 7th disctict mayor Rachida Dati and Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, are also decelerating France’s vaccination drive, Ms Dati told the weekly Le Point newspaper. She said Ms Hidalgo had requested that
the prefect close an efficient vaccination point in the 7th district with a capacity of 400 doses a day.
In the interview, Ms Dati highlighted how inconsistent and disorganised the Paris leadership was in conducting the vaccination campaign. She said she took the initiative because the city administration did not open any vaccination points in the 7th district. Ms Dati believes that the only way to recover from the virus is through vaccination, so she sought permission from both the regional health authorities and the local prefect to open a centre in the district. With the help of volunteer nurses and doctors, the number of jabs administered has been ramped up from the initial 85 to 400 a day, but Anne Hidalgo has decided to shut down the centre in a bid to conceal the general disarray in Paris regarding the administering of the jabs.
Rachida Dati was outraged at the mayor’s decision, as she considers it her mission to have staff members in creches, kindergartens and schools – along with people who have difficulty leaving their homes – inoculated.

The vaccination campaign is progressing in fits and starts across the country, although the epidemic can only be stopped with inoculating a significant portion of the population. President Macron appears to have realised that the inoculations must continue even at weekends and holidays, as ecidenced by one of his recent tweets:

The French government envisions the rollout of the mass vaccination drive in age groups, but it is still silent about the inoculation of teachers, although it has received numerous requests. Moreover, schools have been closed for three or four weeks now and many teachers’ unions argue that health authorities should make use of this timeframe to vaccinate teachers.

In early January, French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said teachers should be inoculated by March at the latest, but this has yet to happen and it is uncertain when it will, because health authorities still haven’t finished inoculating the elderly. According to Health Minister Olivier Veran, the elderly ebjoy absolute priority in the vaccination order; so far 90 per cent of nursing home residents and 60 per cent of those aged over 75 have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

According to BFMTV, although France’s education minister talked about vaccinating teachers as soon as possible a few months ago, he has now said teachers’ inoculation would only begin in mid-April. The minister added that, within that group, priority will be given to those who deal with children with disabilities. Teachers’ unions are becoming increasingly impatient in awaiting responses from the government, and demand that educators be inoculated during the spring break. To this end, the president of the Seine-Saint-Denis département and the mayor of Saint-Denis city have called on Prime Minister Jean Castex to act immediately.

However, the debate between teachers’ unions and the government over the ordering of priority groups is expected to drag on. According to the French business newspaper Les Echos, since the vaccination of those aged between 70-74 began on Saturday, 18 million French citizens have been listed as “top priority” on the vaccination lists  for one reason or another. For now, teachers will have to wait, as jabs for the over-50 cohort is not expected to take place until mid-May.


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