PARIS (Reuters) – The French government is to provide daily updates on the number of people it has vaccinated against COVID-19 as it comes under fire for its slow pace compared with other European countries.
Health Minister Olivier Veran told parliament on Tuesday his ministry would publish a detailed table with the number of people vaccinated per region by 1830 GMT at the latest each day.
A first list was published on Monday, showing that more than 138,000 people had been vaccinated to date. This compares with 2.4 million shots administered in Britain, 719,000 in Italy and 689,000 in Germany.
That French number is also well below the more than 1 million vaccine doses available, but Veran said the government would stick to its policy of prioritising the most vulnerable, even if that meant a slower pace.
France has given priority to residents of retirement homes, before widening that to health staff older than 50 or with existing illnesses. From Jan. 18, the vaccine will be available to senior citizens older than 75 living at home.
Veran said the government was also drawing up plans to make vaccines available to people under 75 who suffer from certain illnesses – with a target of having a total of 1 million people vaccinated by the end of January.
“We cannot vaccinate the entire population in one go. Vaccines need to be produced and distributed first,” Veran said.
Dismissing criticism over the rollout from the opposition and hospital workers dealing with rising numbers of patients, he said the decision to prioritise specific groups had been decided by an independent health authority in December.
“By Easter, I hope that 5 million people will have received the vaccine,” he said.
Veran said France was being supplied with 500,000 more doses of the Pfizer vaccine per week, which will increase to 1 million per week.
On Monday, France received the first 50,000 Moderna vaccine doses, which will be deployed in areas which face a strong resurgence of cases.
France’s COVID-19 infections are on average increasing by more than 18,000 a day, a seven-week high, and almost 25,000 patients are being treated, data published on Monday showed.
A survey this month suggested that six in 10 French citizens would refuse vaccination.
(Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Additional reporting by Matthias Blamont; Editing by Alison Williams)