France claims much-criticized vaccination drive producing results

French Prime Minister Jean Castex on Thursday defended the country’s much-criticised Covid-19 vaccination campaign, saying that France was doing better than its neighbours on jabbing those most at risk of contracting a serious form of the virus.

France has come in for fierce criticism over the slow pace of its vaccination drive compared with many of its European neighbours.

As of Tuesday, France had administered 3.97 million jabs, representing 3.8 percent of the population.

By comparison, Britain has administered 19.39 million doses, representing 27.5 percent of the population, and Germany has administered 5.54 million doses, accounting for 4.3 percent of its population.

France has defended its approach, pointing out that it has been quicker than some of its neighbours, including Britain, on getting the second dose required for full protection to those inoculated.

Castex argued that France was also “ahead on vaccinating people exposed to serious forms of Covid”, noting that the average age of people vaccinated in France was 72 compared to 65 in Germany and 55 in Italy.

“We’re vaccinating a lot and above all, we’re vaccinating the right people,” he argued.

As proof that the campaign was producing results among the elderly, he said that the rate of new infections among over 80-year-olds was falling, while continuing to rise among all other age groups.

France is scrambling to avoid a third national lockdown but with the number of new infections hitting 31,519 on Wednesday — the highest level since November — the government has been forced to announce new restrictions.

This week, the French Riviera and the northern coastal city of Dunkirk — two coronavirus hotspots — were placed under weekend lockdown.

Castex on Thursday placed 20 other territorial areas known as departments, including Paris and its suburbs, under “reinforced surveillance”, meaning they too could soon be placed under partial lockdown.