France first big EU nation to start widespread booster jabs

PARIS (AP) — France yesterday started administering booster shots of COVID-19 vaccine to people over 65 and those with underlying health conditions as the Delta variant spreads in the country.

France is the first big European Union (EU) country to introduce widespread booster shots, and several other European countries are expected to follow suit.

Many countries are still struggling to administer first doses of COVID-19 vaccines and the World Health Organization had called for a moratorium on boosters and also urged governments to donate vaccines to needy countries.

People in France can get the shot on condition a minimum six-month period has passed since they got fully vaccinated with the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Those who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson jab can get a booster shot of Pfizer or Moderna at least four weeks after they first got vaccinated.

In nursing homes, a nationwide booster campaign starts on September 12. About 18 million people are estimated to be eligible for the booster shot, according to the Health Ministry.

Lucien Slama, a 90-year-old retired researcher, told The Associated Press he was “absolutely not” afraid to get the shot yesterday at a pharmacy in Paris.

“It’s my third injection and I remember the other two that caused me no issues at all,” he said. “When you see hospitalisations and the damages it (COVID-19) does, in the short and in the long run, what’s a jab every year or every six months? What does it matter?”

People wait after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Lyon, central France. PHOTO: AP