France releases flu vaccine reserves amid Covid-driven spike in demand

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French pharmacies said Monday they were starting to receive flu vaccine doses from state reserves to cope with heightened demand during the Covid epidemic. Demand has been up during the second Covid wave this autumn, with participation reaching the previous season’s level in just over one month.

The government made reserve stocks of the vaccine available to pharmacists and hospitals as of Monday, according to national pharmacy union Uspo.

While ineffective against the virus that causes Covid-19, the vaccine has been in greater demand with officals encouraging vulnerable individuals to immunise themselves against risk of hospitalisation during the Covid epidemic.

An order published Sunday gave health agency SPF the green light to release the stocks for pharmacies and hospitals.

As a result, “2.4 million supplementary doses” will be available and “exclusively reserved for persons targeted by the recommendations” for the flu shot, particularly residents of care homes, Uspo said.

Reinforced campaign due to Covid

The annual flu shot campaign, which began 13 October, targets people over 65, those with chronic conditions, pregnant and nursing women and health care professionals.

Health agencies reinforced the annual campaign with the aim of avoiding a situation in which hospitals and other health care services had to deal with a flu epidemic on top of a Covid epidemic.

Uspo reported some 10.7 million doses had been administered as of 17 November, meaning participation in the campaign has reached in just over a month a comparable level to the entire 2019-2020 flu season.

French government boosted order

In anticipation of the second wave of the Covid-19 epidemic in October and November, the French government ordered 30 percent more vaccine doses than in a typical year, representing 15 million doses overall.

Nearly a third of France’s 21,500 pharmacies were running out of doses a week into the campaign, although demand has fallen somewhat since then.

French public services reserve about 2 million doses each year. If those reserves disappear as well, France would have to import doses.

(with newswires)