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COVID-19 RECOVERY

France begins Covid vaccinations, but only 13 percent 'certain' to volunteer

Mauricette, a French 78-year-old woman, receives a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at Rene-Muret hospital in Sevran, on the outskirts of Paris, on December 27, 2020.
Mauricette, a French 78-year-old woman, receives a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at Rene-Muret hospital in Sevran, on the outskirts of Paris, on December 27, 2020. AFP - THOMAS SAMSON

Mauricette, a 78-year-old resident of a retirement home on the outskirts of Paris, became the first French person to be vaccinated against coronavirus on Sunday – as part of an EU-wide campaign to inoculate some 450 million people.

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The septuagenarian was among a dozen residents and a doctor in the long-term care unit of the René-Muret hospital, in the Seine-Saint-Denis suburb of Sevran, to be given a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. 

"It didn't even hurt," Mauricette said, as she was placed under observation for 15 minutes, as per protocol.

Doctor Jean-Jacques Monsuez, a 65-year-old cardiologist at René-Muret, was the second to be vaccinated. "If this can help us beat this virus, so much the better," he said of the vaccine, which comes just shy of a year after the crippling disease made it to France. 

Next in line to get the jab are residents of Dijon University Hospital’s Champmaillot geriatric centre, who will be vaccinated Sunday afternoon, followed over the next two weeks by residents of retirement homes in the Paris, Lyon, Lille and Tours regions.

The European Union has secured contracts for more than two billion vaccine doses, with a goal of inoculating all adults throughout 2021.

Germany, Hungary and Slovakia reportedly jumped the gun ahead of Sunday’s planned vaccine rollout – giving the jab to dozens of elderly people just hours after the doses were delivered.

Summer timetable

The French government said Saturday it was seeking to immunise nearly 15 million people by the summer, slightly extending its earlier target.

Residents of France’s 7,000 retirement homes should have received the shot by the end of February, by which time pensioners over the age of 65 will be eligible – followed by the rest of the population aged 16 and over from the spring.

Vaccine scepticism remains high in France, with a poll published Sunday by Le Journal du Dimanche finding a majority of people – 56 percent – do not intend to get vaccinated.

Of the 44 percent of people who are in favour of the vaccine, only 13 percent said they were "certain" to receive it.

France is one of only four countries in which a majority of citizens say they'll refuse the vaccine. The others are Lebanon, Croatia and Serbia.

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