GARCHES, France (Reuters) – Jeanne Becart, mayor of the Paris suburb of Garches, said public health officials told her to get ready to administer 1,200 COVID-19 vaccines a week. But for this week, the vaccination centre she set up has only been allocated 420 doses.
“I am a bit angry,” Becart said inside the vaccination hub off the town square, where over the course of Monday the 15 volunteers, nurses and doctors on duty between them vaccinated 90 patients.
She had a plea for France’s leader Emmanuel Macron. “Please Mr. President, buy vaccines whatever the cost.”
France is not experiencing problems with the supply of vaccines, according to government officials. They say that, apart from minor fluctuations, France is getting the doses from the manufacturers that were allocated to it.
The problem for France is that demand has exploded and is far outstripping the number of jabs available.
Many French people were initially sceptical, but as they have seen acquaintances get vaccinated with no adverse effects, large numbers decided the benefits outweigh the risks, say health officials.
“People have understood now that the vaccination is the solution,” said Barbara Thery, head of a vaccination centre in Le Cannet, just outside the Mediterranean city of Cannes.
“So the relationship between the number of people who come forward and want to be vaccinated, and the speed at which we can do it, is not what we need,” she said.
Her centre has enough doses for 50 vaccinations per day but could easily dispense 200 a day if it had the doses, she said.
France has approved both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for use.
The government ditched a plan to initially give the vaccine only to those in elderly people’s homes, meaning everyone 75 and over – a total of more than 6 million people in France – became eligible for the jab, but without the doses in place to vaccinate them straight away.
Health Minister Olivier Veran said as fast as they were being produced, the vaccines were being shipped to vaccination centres.
A Health Ministry official said the supply was speeding up and the government was on track to meet its target of vaccinating 2.4 million people by the end of February.
In Saint-Denis, on the northern edge of Paris, the local mayor’s office set up a vaccination centre in a municipal building. For this week, it has been allocated 132 doses.
“Unfortunately that does not match the need,” said Katy Bontinck, the deputy mayor in charge of health. Because of the limited doses, the centre only opens on weekday afternoons.
(Additional reporting by Eric Gaillard, Matthias Blamont and Richard Lough; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Janet Lawrence)