Battling Skeptics, France Plans 1 Million Virus Shots in January

France plans to vaccinate around 1 million people against Covid-19 in January in a first phase to protect the most vulnerable, Prime Minister Jean Castex said.

The country expects to receive as many as 200 million vaccine doses based on six contracts signed by the European Union, enough to protect 100 million people, Castex said at a briefing in Paris. Vaccination will be free, with the government budgeting 1.5 billion euros ($1.8 billion) in 2021 to provide the shot, Castex said.

The vaccine won’t be compulsory and the government will have to deal with a skeptical public. Only 54% of French plan to get a vaccination against the virus, amid concern about side effects and the speed with which vaccines are moving through clinical trials, according to an Ipsos poll.

Battling Skeptics, France Plans 1 Million Virus Shots in January

The European Medicines Agency will decide on market approval for the most advanced vaccine candidates -- developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE as well Moderna Inc. -- in coming days and by Dec. 29 at the latest, according to Castex. The U.K. approved the Pfizer and BioNTech shot on Wednesday, and EU countries may be behind the U.K. and the U.S. in vaccinating their population, according to research firm Airfinite Ltd.

France will first vaccinate residents of nursing homes and some personnel there. Starting in February, France plans to vaccinate a further 14 million people in a second stage, focusing on the elderly, those with risk factors as well as health professionals, before moving on to the wider population.

France reported confirmed coronavirus cases increased by 12,696 to 2.26 million on Thursday, with the seven-day average falling to 10,524. Average daily cases will drop below 10,000 in coming days, Castex said.

Covid patients in hospitals and intensive-care units continued to fall from their Nov. 16 peak, with ICU patients falling to the lowest since the end of October. The seven-day average of fatalities has been falling for almost two weeks.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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