PARIS – The few hours it took to administer the first coronavirus vaccines to 14 residents of the John XXIII retirement home – named after a pope and not far from the birthplace in eastern France from vaccine pioneer Louis Pasteur – took weeks of preparation.
Home director Samuel Robbe first had to work his way through a dense 61-page vaccination protocol, one of the French government’s many voluminous guides that exhaustively detail how to proceed, right down to number of times (10) that each vaccine vial must be inverted to mix its contents.
“Delicately,” the booklet states. “Don’t shake. ”
As France tries to figure out why its vaccination campaign was launched so slowly, part of the answer lies in forests of bureaucracy and the decision to prioritize vulnerable elderly people in nursing homes. This is perhaps the most difficult group to start with, due to the need for informed consent and the challenges of explaining the complex science of accelerated vaccines.
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Claude Fouet, still full of vim and good humor at 89 but with memory problems, was among the first of his Parisian residence to accept a vaccination. But in conversation, it quickly becomes apparent that his understanding of the pandemic is uneven. Eve Guillaume, the director of the house, had to remind Fouet that in April, he had survived his own contact with the virus which killed more than 66,000 people in France.
Guillaume says getting consent from his 64 residents – or their guardians and families when they’re not fit enough to get along on their own – is proving to be the most labor-intensive part of his preparations to begin the vaccinations this month. Some families have said no, and some want to wait a few months to see how the vaccinations go before making a decision.
“You can’t rely on nursing homes to go fast,” she says. “It means, every time, starting a conversation with the families, talking with the guardians, taking collegial action to make the right decision. And it takes time. ”
At the Jean XXIII house, between the fortified town of Besançon and Pasteur’s birthplace in Dole, Robbe had a similar experience.
After the European Union gave the green light to use the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine in December, Robbe says it took two weeks to put all the pieces together to vaccinate 14 residents last week – a fraction of his total of more than 100.
Getting consent was the biggest hurdle for a doctor and psychologist going from room to room discussing vaccinations, he says. Residents’ families had a week during the December vacation to approve or deny, a decision that had to be unanimous among immediate family members.
When a woman’s daughter said yes but her son said no, a shot was not given because “they can turn on us and say, ‘I never accepted that'” , said Robbe. “No consensus, we don’t vaccinate. ”
Only by taking shortcuts and getting residents to agree could the process go faster, he says.
“My friends say, ‘What is this circus? The Germans have already vaccinated 80,000 people and we haven’t vaccinated anyone, ”he says. “But we don’t share the same stories. When you offer a vaccine to the Germans, they all want to be vaccinated. In France, there is a lot of hesitation about the history of vaccinations. People are more skeptical. They need to understand. . They need explanations and to be reassured. ”
In some countries that move faster than France, the bureaucracy is lighter. In Britain, where nearly 1.5 million people have been vaccinated and where there are plans to offer jabs to all nursing home residents by the end of January, people capable of consenting have no just sign a one-page form that gives basic information about the benefits and possible aspects. effects.
No medical interview is necessary in Spain. She started to vaccinate the same day as France but administered 82,000 doses in the first nine days, while France only managed a few thousand.
Germany, like France, also imposes a meeting with a doctor and gives priority to injections for residents of health centers, but it reaches them more quickly thanks to mobile teams. At its current rate of nearly 30,000 vaccinations per day, Germany would need at least six years to vaccinate its 69 million adults. But while the German government is criticized for the slow deployment, France has taken an even quieter start, at least in numerical terms, but has pledged to reach 1 million people by the end of January.
Other countries have amassed more people by offering photos to larger cross sections of people who are easier to reach and who can get to dates. The vast majority of the more than 400,000 doses administered in Italy went to health workers.
Information for this article was provided by Pan Pylas, Nicole Winfield, Ciaran Giles and Kirsten Grieshaber of The Associated Press.
FILE – In this archive photo from January 6, 2021, a resident is required to be vaccinated Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 at the Bois Fleuris retirement home in Strasbourg in eastern France. As France examines why its vaccination campaign has started so slowly, part of the answer lies in bureaucracy and the government’s decision to start with perhaps the hardest group to reach: the elderly in nursing homes . (AP Photo / Jean-François Badias, file)
FILE – In this archive photo from January 5, 2021, Dr Alain Guignon reads a prescription before being vaccinated for Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 at a clinic in Strasbourg, in eastern France. As France examines why its vaccination campaign has started so slowly, part of the answer lies in bureaucracy and the government’s decision to start with perhaps the hardest group to reach: the elderly in nursing homes . (AP Photo / Jean-François Badias, file)
A director of a retirement home, Eve Guillaume, speaks during an interview in Paris, Wednesday, January 7, 2021. Guillaume says that obtaining the vaccination consent of his 64 residents, or their guardians and families when they aren’t fit enough to get along, proving by far the most labor-intensive part of her preparations to start vaccinations later in January. (AP Photo / Thibault Camus)
A retirement home director, Eve Guillaume, gestures during an interview in Paris, Wednesday, January 7, 2021. Guillaume says that obtaining the consent for vaccination of his 64 residents, or their guardians and families when they aren’t fit enough to get along, proving by far the most labor-intensive part of her preparations to start vaccinations later in January. (AP Photo / Thibault Camus)