In a significant development, French President Emmanuel Macron stated, France could potentially commence administration a COVID-19 vaccine as early as the end of this year, as soon as it is approved by regulators.
“We are going to organise a swift and massive vaccination campaign,” said Macron while detailing how the country would start to ease lockdown measures this weekend.
“We will very likely, and pending authorisation by health authorities, start vaccination of the most vulnerable populations, hence the elderly, as soon as the end of December, early January,” said Macron.
Vaccination will be on voluntary basis and will not be compulsory, said Macron.
Governments in Europe are working to map out what could be the biggest vaccination scheme in decades. The task is daunting for France given that it has some of the lowest levels of trust in vaccines.
According to an Ipsos poll for the World Economic Forum, around 59% of French respondents opted for a COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available, compared with 67% in the United States and 85% in Britain.
“A scientific committee would be established to monitor vaccinations and that a group of citizens would also take part to ensure transparency,” said Macron.
According to officials from the Health Ministry, a task force supervised by the prime minister’s office is currently in charge of the logistical aspects; equipment to store vaccines at very low temperatures have also been purchased.
Macron’s comments are aligned with those of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), whose chief has been quoted as saying that it would soon formulate a scientific opinion on COVID-19 vaccines and seek regulatory approval by the end of this year, in a best-case scenario.
Currently, there is no internationally approved vaccine for COVID-19, the disease which has been induced by the Wuhan coronavirus, which has killed more than 1.4 million people and which has ravaged the global economy.
So far, the European Union has secured deals with Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Pfizer and BioNTech, and CureVac. According to a government source, of the 1.9 billion doses expected to reach the EU, 295 million doses have been secured by France.