PARIS (Reuters) – France could return to some sort of post-coronavirus normal in about a year if as many as 80% to 90% of its population are vaccinated against the disease, a government scientific adviser said on Thursday.
But getting there might prove difficult as the French are among the most sceptical towards vaccination in the Western world, an attitude fuelled by various conspiracy theories in which denial of science is rife.
Arnaud Fontanet, a leading epidemiologist, told BFM TV France needed to get a vaccination rate of up to 90% for a return to ordinary life by next autumn.
According to an Ipsos poll for the World Economic Forum, only 59% of French respondents said they would get a COVID-19 vaccine if it became available, compared with 67% in the United States and 85% in Britain.
President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday the COVID-19 vaccine could start being administered as soon as the end of the year in France if approved by regulators, adding that it would not be compulsory.
Centrist Francois Bayrou, one of Macron’s main allies, said he was in favour of mandatory vaccination provided its efficiency and safety are guaranteed.
Prime Minister Jean Castex might shed a light on how the vaccination programme will be rolled out during a press conference scheduled for later on Thursday, when he will detail how France will gradually unwind its second national lockdown.
With more than 2,17 million confirmed COVID-19 infections, France has the fourth-highest tally in the world, behind the United States, India and Brasil. Its death toll, at 50,618, ranks seventh in the world.
(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Edmund Blair and Nick Macfie)