Covid-19 in France

Covid vaccination centre in Nice closed due to lack of volunteers

People walk in front of a closed vaccination center in the city of Nice, southern France, on 18 April, 2021.
People walk in front of a closed vaccination center in the city of Nice, southern France, on 18 April, 2021. © AFP/Valery Hache

The massive vaccination centre in Nice, southern France, which was supposed to remain open all weekend to vaccinate the most at-risk personnel over 55 following the government announcement last Thursday, closed midday on Saturday due to a lack of candidates.

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On Saturday 17 April, "we only had 58 people who showed up this morning for the 4,000 doses of vaccine available," said Benoit Huber, chief of staff at the Alpes-Maritimes prefecture.

The vaccination centre in Nice where the AstraZeneca vaccine was to be administered, was forced to remain closed on Sunday as well. 

The massive vaccination drive announced by the French government for teachers and policemen over 55, as well as other professions highly exposed to Covid-19, did not have the expected success.

One of the reasons it was slow to get off the ground, was that the organisation was very "last minute," recalls Véronique Mondain, head of infectious diseases unit at Nice public hospital.

She also said having one large centre was off-putting to many who would have preferred something closer to home. "They prefer to have vaccinations done by people they trust, such as their doctor, their pharmacist or a nurse," she told France Info radio on Sunday.  

The operation will continue for two more weeks

The eligible population in the Alpes-Maritimes is relatively small with 3,000 teachers aged 55 and over.

Among them, a certain number have already been vaccinated, notably in Nice where the town hall says it has "almost completed" the vaccination of the city's teachers who are currently on holiday.

However, the prefecture specifies that this operation will continue over the next two weeks.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced the opening during the weekend of slots dedicated to teachers of schools, colleges and high schools, early childhood professionals, police officers and gendarmes, prison guards, and auxiliary staff in childcare centres.

Around 400,000 people are eligible to receive injections of AstraZeneca, Pfizer BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.

In mid-March, the AstraZeneca vaccine, used exclusively this weekend in Nice, was suspended a few days after reports in Europe of very rare and atypical blood clots.

After changing its position several times, France finally decided on 19 March to offer this vaccine only to people over 55, as these blood clots were mainly observed in younger patients.

"People have stop denigrating the AstraZeneca vaccine," insists Véronique Mondain. "There were 80 cases among 20 million. I think the message should be more positive, we should be reassuring people, especially in terms of a reaction which is very rare."

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