'Gentle' France lags behind eager EU neighbours in race to vaccinate kids as Omicron rages

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language

'Gentle' France lags behind eager EU neighbours in race to vaccinate kids as Omicron rages
© Michel Euler, AP Photo

As France’s bid to vaccinate 5- to 11-year-olds against Covid-19 hits the one-month mark, progress remains ploddingly slow, light years behind many EU neighbours. As the Omicron wave rages through France with average confirmed cases exceeding 300,000 a day, Prime Minister Jean Castex on Thursday euphemised that the jab campaign had begun “gently” and pledged to loosen the strict logistics holding it back. FRANCE 24 takes a look at France’s lagging effort to vaccinate kids and explores why.

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language

Saturday marks one month since France began vaccinating its general population of 5- to 11-year-olds on December 22, a week after it allowed vulnerable kids access to Pfizer-BioNtech’s paediatric doses. Figures vary slightly depending on the official source, but uptake by all accounts has been anecdotal so far.

As of Wednesday, according to the Santé Publique France health authority, 1.8 percent of France’s population of some 5.8 million eligible 5- to 11-year-olds had received a first dose and 0.4 percent were completely vaccinated. The French health ministry’s figures puzzlingly are slightly better, with some 175,000 children, or 3 percent, having lifted a sleeve, it said Tuesday.

Global Tech News Daily

Many of France’s neighbours, meanwhile, are inoculating kids at pace. Twenty-six percent of Italy’s 3.6 million 5- to 11-year-olds have received a dose and 6.45 percent two doses. Spain had given one dose to 45 percent of its 3.4 million children by Tuesday; regionally, Galicia leads the way with more than 80 percent receiving the first jab. Portugal has vaccinated half of its more than 600,000 eligible youngsters. Even in more vaccine-sceptical Germany, more than 15 percent of the age group have received a dose and 6.5 percent both jabs. And in just 2.5 weeks since its push began, Ireland has vaccinated more than 10 percent of its 480,000 kids.

So why is France so far behind? It isn’t as if the country’s children have gone untouched by the pandemic. Some 19,000 school classes were closed due to the pandemic as of Thursday, despite a controversial school health protocol engineered to keep them open. Nearly 6 percent of all French primary schoolchildren tested positive for Covid-19 over the last week alone.

Global Tech News Daily

Hospital admissions of children with Covid-19 are at an all-time high in France, outstripping last summer’s previous high by 600 percent. While deaths among children with Covid-19 are mercifully rare, nine children under 10 with Covid-19 have died in the first three weeks of 2022, as many as during all of 2021.

But among French 6- to 10-year-olds, Covid-19 has also been linked with more than 300 cases of Multi-system inflammatory syndrome (Mis-C), a rare but serious illness that sends a majority of its patients to intensive care. The vaccine is known to provide overwhelming protection against Mis-C.

An abundance of caution and a later start

Some European Union countries took up the torch with enthusiasm once the bloc’s drug regulator, European Medicines Agency (EMA), gave its go-ahead on November 25. Austria had begun even before that green light, Denmark started on November 27, Portugal’s own health authority gave approval on December 7 and Italy, Greece and Spain quickly followed.

Historically vaccine-sceptic France, meanwhile, tapped three separate health and ethics authorities for their own reviews, conditioning its go-ahead for vaccinating all 5- to 11-year-olds on their approval. The last of the bodies waited for data on 8 million vaccinated American children before finally giving its thumbs up on December 22, nearly a full month after the EMA decision.

When France finally opened its campaign, the government did so with a relative lack of fanfare, certainly compared to neighbouring Spain. Eight days earlier, Spanish President Pedro Sanchez tweeted a public-service ad with kids hugging each other and their grandparents. “It’s time to vaccinate boys and girls from 5 to 11 years old,” he wrote. “We continue to move forward to protect the population and recover the spaces the pandemic had stolen from us; to ensure minors and the people around them are safer.”

Bad timing

When inoculations began just 48 hours before Christmas Eve, the country was deep into a two-week school holiday. On Wednesday, France’s Scientific Council – the panel of scientists that advises the government on Covid-19 matters (or tries to) – cited that “hardly favourable timing” as one reason for 5- to 11-year-olds’ “very weak” vaccination coverage today.

The Council also flagged another timing flaw: As schools reopened after the break, with Omicron spreading like wildfire, a “very large number of children were contaminated” with many more classmates becoming contact cases (sometimes repeatedly). A Covid-19 infection rules out a vaccination appointment for months, while contact cases are asked to postpone the jab to be sure.

In shrugging off a Christmas Day plea by health professionals to postpone the school reopening for a week in order to better secure schools and promote vaccination for schoolchildren, the government inadvertently may have contributed to slowing the campaign altogether.

Vaccine-skittish parents

Did the slow-burn approval process allay sceptical parents’ fears or somehow serve their suspicions?

Two polls conducted in December – between the EU regulator’s green light and France’s OK – showed parents widely against vaccinating children against Covid-19. A poll by the Elabe firm found 68 percent of parents of 5- to 11-year-olds opposed to the jab (with 47 percent “very opposed”), compared to just 31 percent in favour. Another poll for the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm) found comparable results with the parents it surveyed (58 percent against, 28 percent in favour).

Both studies found parents to be more skittish than the general French population about vaccinating 5- to 11-year-olds. As a whole, France was evenly split on the matter – 51 percent against to 48 percent for – on the Elabe poll.

Logistical obstacles

“It is getting less and less difficult to find an appointment,” the French health ministry enthused on Tuesday, when it said 175,000 5- to 11-year-olds had received one dose. But France took delivery of no fewer than 1.9 million paediatric doses in December with a million more due this month. Why the gap?

The Scientific Council on Wednesday rapped the inoculation campaign for “initial logistical problems”, including too few vaccination centres offering paediatric doses, too few appointments available, doses located at too great a distance from the demand or appointments during school hours. Indeed, the statistics are clear: French kids who do get vaccinated do so on Saturdays and Wednesdays, when school is out.

For a month on social media, parents have traded stories of fruitless searches for child vaccination appointments, driving long distances to snag the only appointment they could find for their child or lamenting having to cancel a hard-won appointment after a last-minute infection at school. They favour the hashtag #pasvitemadose (“Not quick my dose”), spoofing the popular vaccine reservation website ViteMaDose. Twitter has also seen its share of general practitioners inviting parents to bring their kids for a jab in this or that outpost of France lest they have to dispose of perishable leftover doses.

In vaccine-skittish France, authorities inserted extra hoops into the procedure for vaccinating 5- to 11-year-olds, ostensibly to promote acceptance. Aside from unique restrictions on the types of health professionals who could inoculate children, vaccinators are required to propose a rapid blood test that involves piercing a child’s finger to screen for previous infection. Kids found to have Covid-19 antibodies aren’t offered a second dose.

The addition of fresh red tape hasn’t helped, either. Suddenly on January 6, both parents needed to sign off on authorising their child’s vaccination following a ruling by France’s Council of State – a new challenge, particularly for divorced parents.

On Thursday, the French prime minister appeared to recognise one aspect of the logistics bogging the campaign down. “We must in particular make progress on the vaccination of children aged 5 to 11, which began gently,” Castex said during Thursday’s press conference. “Even though I know many parents are still hesitating, I want to tell them that the scientific authorities have been very clear on the benefits of that vaccine and we will facilitate it by authorising more locations and more professionals, including pharmacists and nurses, to provide the injections.”

Some authorities slow to accept Covid-19 spread in children

And yet over the course of the pandemic in France, a vocal crowd of health and education professionals have consistently slammed the influential French Society of Paediatrics (SFP) and its professor president, Christèle Gras-Le Guen. In breaking with the prevailing wisdom of its counterparts abroad and downplaying Covid-19 transmission in kids, the SFP has skewed the risk-benefit analysis in the public imagination, they suggest.

As recently as November, Gras-Le Guen told the regional daily Ouest-France, “We haven’t stopped saying it for 18 months: Under-12s are little affected by Covid-19 infection and non-contagious.” She added that “under 12s wearing a mask at school makes no sense. I’ll say it again: the contagion doesn’t happen at school”.

To the dismay of experts, the SFP has openly had the ear of Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer, who long echoed SFP doctrine that kids are primarily infected outside school and whom specialists charge with shirking his responsibility to mitigate viral spread in the classroom.

Just last week, teachers nationwide went on strike to demand high-quality face masks and the repeated relaxing of a school Covid-19 protocol singularly devised to keep schools open even as attendance is decimated by infection.

When the Scientific Council this week explicitly validated the role back-to-school played in the 460,000 positive cases registered nationally on Tuesday alone, some of the pandemic-wearied doctors couldn’t hide their tongue-in-cheek glee.

“The rise appears to be explained by a resurgence of the epidemic in those under 15 and 30-44 year-olds, suggesting an important back-to-school effect: the virus is circulating intensely among the youngest and then spreads to the parents,” the panel said.

To which Dr. Christian Lehmann, a member of the Du Côté de la Science (On the Side of Science) policy watchdog group tweeted, “Hello French Society of Paediatrics, you’re going to laugh, but we have something to show you….”

Shaking hands, kissing babies (virtually, please)

Have we mentioned that 2022 is a presidential election year in France?

With 79 days to go until April’s first round, the row over vaccinating kids has become the archetypal wedge issue – to be avoided by moderates or embraced by extremes, the louder the better.

As consensus builds against the Covid-19 school protocol, many candidates have gravitated to that separate, relatively safe topic to needle the incumbent Emmanuel Macron. When Greens candidate Yannick Jadot did go on the record in December sharing his “reservations” over vaccinating kids, he tamely concluded it should be up to parents to decide.

But on the far right – where a trio of hopefuls are polling around a combined 30 percent – it’s been open season on the airwaves over the 5- to 11-year-old jab.

Pundit-turned-politician Éric Zemmour has said he is “hostile”, saying vaccinating kids against Covid-19 “beggars belief”.

National Rally leader and 2017 presidential finalist Marine Le Pen told France Inter radio this week that she was opposed because “the risk-benefit for children is nil”. She said, “They have almost no chance of being victims of a serious form, so vaccinating them is, in my opinion, a form of abuse.”

Not to be outdone, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan has accused the government of putting kids in danger when, he contends, the risks outweigh the benefits. He made his opposition known on the lower-house National Assembly floor last week, calling the policy “horrifying”.

In the glare of that election spotlight, France’s bid to catch up on vaccinating kids may prove all but gentle.

News Related

OTHER NEWS

New York Rangers get another comeback win to force Game 7 vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

PITTSBURGH — How many times can the New York Rangers dig themselves into a hole and climb back out? At least one more, as of Friday night. The Blueshirts came ... Read more »

Wilson, balanced Aces cruise to 96-73 victory over Dream

COLLEGE PARK, Ga. (AP) — A’ja Wilson scored 15 points, Kelsey Plum had 14 points and 11 assists and the Las Vegas Aces rolled to a 96-73 victory over the ... Read more »

EXPLAINER: Why frustration lingers in Okinawa 50 years later

The Associated PressFILE – U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Mike Anglen of Turner, Ore., center, stands atop a cliff as Sgt. Bryan Wallace of Pikin, Ill., waits for his turn before ... Read more »

Astros beat Nationals 6-1 for 11th straight victory

WASHINGTON (AP) — Jose Altuve homered on the first pitch of the game, Yordan Alvarez and Yuli Gurriel also went deep and the Houston Astros extended their winning streak to ... Read more »

Kreider scores late, Rangers edge Pens 5-3 to force Game 7

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Chris Kreider’s long slap shot bounced over Louis Domingue and into the net with 1:28 left and the New York Rangers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-3 on ... Read more »

Astros push winning streak to 11, roll past Nationals 6-1

WASHINGTON (AP) — Jose Altuve homered on the first pitch of the game, and Yordan Alvarez and Yuli Gurriel also went deep to help the Houston Astros extend their winning ... Read more »

Moustakas, Drury power Reds to 8-2 victory over Pirates

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Mike Moustakas homered twice and Brandon Drury drove in four runs to break out of a slump and lead the resurgent Cincinnati Reds to an 8-2 victory ... Read more »

Peterson's bases-loaded walk lifts Brewers over Marlins 2-1

MIAMI (AP) — Jace Peterson walked against Anthony Bender with the bases loaded in the ninth inning and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Miami Marlins 2-1 Friday night. After starters ... Read more »

Padres: No cancer found during manager Bob Melvin's prostate surgery

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The San Diego Padres say no cancer was found when manager Bob Melvin had prostate surgery on Wednesday. Melvin, 60, was recovering at home Friday after ... Read more »

Ogunbowale, Gray help Wings rally past Mystics, 94-86

WASHINGTON (AP) — Arike Ogunbowale scored 27 points, Allisha Gray had 21 and the Dallas Wings overcame a 15-point second-quarter deficit to beat the Washington Mystics 94-86 on Friday night. ... Read more »

Resigning North Dakota senator led lawmakers in travel costs

The Associated PressFILE – North Dakota Sen. Ray Holmberg listens during a joint House and Senate Appropriations Committee meeting at the Capitol in Bismarck, N.D., on Jan. 7, 2009. Holmberg, ... Read more »

Residents in picturesque California county hit with gas prices topping $7 a gallon

A California county known for its spectacular mountains and proximity to Yosemite National Park has been paying the nation’s highest gas prices. Read more »

Boudreau to return as coach of Canucks next season

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Bruce Boudreau will return as coach of the Vancouver Canucks next season after helping to turn the struggling NHL club around as a midyear replacement. ... Read more »

New Zealand leader Jacinda Ardern tests positive for COVID

On Location: May 13, 2022 Catch up on the developing stories making headlines.The Associated Press WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has tested positive for COVID-19 ... Read more »

Today in History for May 14th

Highlights of this day in history: Colonists go ashore in Virginia to set up Jamestown; Lewis and Clark begin to explore Louisiana Territory; Israel founded; Skylab launched; Movie producer George ... Read more »

Twitter CEO expects Elon Musk acquisition to close, addresses spending cuts

Musk is awaiting details supporting calculations that spam, fake accounts represent less than 5% of Twitter's users Read more »

Padres: No cancer found during Bob Melvin's prostate surgery

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The San Diego Padres say no cancer was found when manager Bob Melvin had prostate surgery on Wednesday. Melvin, 60, was recovering at home Friday after ... Read more »

Renovated NYC museum shows indigenous perspectives

The American Museum of Natural History in New York City recently finished a major renovation of its exhibition on the native peoples of the northwest coast of North America. Curators ... Read more »

Police release 911 calls in Gilgo Beach case

A woman who disappeared in a beach community on New York’s Long Island more than a decade ago, sparking an investigation into a possible serial killer, said “there’s somebody after ... Read more »

Academy Awards set 2023 Oscars for March 12

The Associated PressFILE – Oscar statue on the red carpet at the Oscars on Sunday, March 27, 2022, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Next year’s Academy Awards will ... Read more »

Actor Fred Ward, of 'Tremors,' 'The Right Stuff' fame, dies

The Associated PressFILE – Fred Ward, a cast member in “30 Minutes or Less,” poses at the premiere of the film in Los Angeles on Aug. 8, 2011. Ward, a ... Read more »

Judge refuses to drop elections suit against Trump, media

NEW YORK — A Colorado judge on Friday denied motions to dismiss a defamation lawsuit filed by an election systems worker against former President Donald Trump’s campaign, two of its ... Read more »

Q&A: Becky G unveils every side of herself in latest album

The Associated PressFILE – Becky G appears at the Oscars in Los Angeles on March 27, 2022. Beck G’s latest album is “Esquemas.” (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File) NEW YORK ... Read more »

North Korea reports 21 new deaths as it battles COVID-19 outbreak

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea reports 21 new deaths as it battles COVID-19 outbreak. Read more »

North Korea confirms 21 new deaths as it battles COVID-19

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea says 21 people died and 174,440 people were newly found with fever symptoms on Friday alone as the country scrambles to slow the spread ... Read more »

White Sox place Giolito on COVID list, activate Vaughn

The Chicago White Sox placed ace Lucas Giolito on the COVID-19 injured list and activated outfielder Andrew Vaughn following a rehab assignment with Triple-A Charlotte on Friday. Giolito began experiencing ... Read more »

Traded back and forth, Ford learns to live out of suitcase

NEW YORK (AP) — Mike Ford has learned to travel light — and quickly. Since the start of the season, the 29-year-old first baseman has played for Tacoma, San Francisco ... Read more »

Falcon 9 rocket launches Starlink satellites

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched 53 Starlink satellites to low-Earth orbit from California on Friday. (May 13) Read more »

Celtics' Robert Williams remains out for Game 6 vs. Bucks

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Boston forward/center Robert Williams missed his third straight game with an injured left knee as the Celtics tried to keep their season alive Friday night in Game ... Read more »

Padres sign Robinson Canó, plan to use him off the bench

ATLANTA (AP) — The San Diego Padres have signed veteran second baseman Robinson Canó to a major league contract and plan to use him as a left-handed bat off the ... Read more »

WNBA star's Russia detention extended by 1 month

The lawyer for WNBA star Brittney Griner says her pre-trial detention in Russia has been extended by one month. Alexander Boykov told The Associated Press the relatively short extension indicated ... Read more »

Louisiana justices toss COVID-related charges against pastor

Hundreds of thousands of Americans fighting long-haul symptoms from COVID-19 Dr. David Putrino from Mount Sinai Health System and COVID long-hauler Joel Fram discuss the long-term effects of the disease.The ... Read more »

Sandy Hook lawsuits against Alex Jones on track to resume

The Associated PressFILE – This Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, photo shows radio show host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones at Capitol Hill in Washington. The Sandy Hook families’ lawsuits against ... Read more »

Rockies' Bryant closer to return after cortisone shot

DENVER (AP) — Colorado Rockies outfielder Kris Bryant took swings in the cage Friday for the first time since he was sidelined with a sore back nearly three weeks ago ... Read more »

Mariners demote Jarred Kelenic to minors after poor start

NEW YORK (AP) — Rather than make his Citi Field debut against the team that traded him, Jarred Kelenic was demoted to Triple-A Tacoma by the Seattle Mariners on Friday ... Read more »

Biden: ASEAN partnership 'critical' in this moment

Looking to strengthen ties, President Joe Biden welcomes leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to Washington for the first time. “We’re launching a new era in U.S.-ASEAN relations,” ... Read more »

Phil Mickelson will not defend his title at next week's PGA Championship

Phil Mickelson caught lightning in a bottle last year at Kiawah Island, winning a major championship at 50 years of age. The fairways flooded, and the golf world stood and ... Read more »

Tennessee Titans' Malik Willis on Ryan Tannehill's mentorship comments: 'Everything is cool'

The Tennessee Titans didn’t take issue with Ryan Tannehill’s comments about mentoring third-round rookie Malik Willis. Willis and coach Mike Vrabel were asked about Tannehill’s scrutinized remarks following the first ... Read more »

Lawyers plan suit against Lufthansa over Jewish passengers

Lawyers for 26 passengers said Friday they told Lufthansa that they will sue the German airline for refusing to let members of a large group of Orthodox Jewish passengers board ... Read more »

Wild face offseason after yet another early ouster

While the Minnesota Wild were stacking up franchise records and securing the extra home game for the first round, general manager Bill Guerin carefully acknowledged a “great year” for the ... Read more »