PARIS (AP) – France launched a flu vaccination campaign on Tuesday to avoid facing another epidemic peak as the coronavirus spreads rapidly in the country.
French health authorities have issued official recommendations to prevent potential shortages of the flu vaccine, which they say could arise amid increased demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Medical staff are advised to reserve it first for priority patients, including people over 65, pregnant women, and those with respiratory and certain other illnesses. Others are advised to wait until December.
The campaign was launched as French health authorities report a rapid increase in cases of coronavirus infections, with more people being admitted to hospitals. COVID-19 patients now occupy more than 42% of the beds in intensive care units in the Paris region.
Sylvie Ducamp, 73, was among the first patients to be vaccinated against the flu in a Parisian pharmacy on Tuesday morning.
“Getting the flu shot keeps you from confusing flu symptoms with COVID-19 symptoms and it helps doctors,” she told The Associated Press.
Karima Ameri, 45, said her doctor advised her to get the vaccine quickly to avoid a possible shortage “because more and more people want to be vaccinated precisely for fear of being weakened by the flu” and contract COVID-19.
Assistant pharmacist Amira Ben Guitar said: “We have prepared adequate supplies of vaccine, in this pharmacy we have prepared an adequate stock. The only fear we can have is whether there are more people who want to be vaccinated than in previous years. “
Health Minister Olivier Veran said France had ordered 15.5 million doses of the vaccine, a 30% increase from last year.
Last winter, around 52% of people over 65 received the flu vaccine, according to French health authorities. This year, the French authorities have set themselves a target of reaching up to 75%.