PARIS (Reuters) -President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday that everyone in France should be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine if they want it, amidst broad criticism over the slowness of the vaccination program.
“The hope is there, in the vaccine that the human genius has made possible in one year only”, Macron said in his New Year’s Eve address to the nation.
“I will not let an unjustified slowness take hold. Every French person who wishes it should be able to get vaccinated”, he added.
France, where the anti-vaxx movement is very strong, started its vaccination campaign on Sunday as in many other European countries.
But it has only vaccinated several hundreds of its citizens since then versus tens of thousands in Germany.
Health Minister Olivier Veran said earlier France would open COVID-19 vaccination centres in cities before the start of February.
He also said on Twitter the government had decided to “speed up protection of priority public”, meaning medical workers aged over 50 would get a vaccine from Monday.
The daily number of new COVID-19 cases remains much higher than the government’s target of less than 5,000.
The French health ministry reported 19,927 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours on Thursday, down from Wednesday’s more than one-month high of 26,457.
France did nonetheless see the number of people hospitalised for the disease decline for the third day running, relieving some stress on the healthcare system.
France’s cumulative total of cases is more than 2.6 million, the fifth-highest in the world. The seven-day moving average of new infections stands at 13,274 and the death toll was up by 251 to 64,632, versus a seven day moving average of 338.
(Reporting by Henri-Pierre Andre and Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Grant McCool)