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Covid-19: everything you need to know about the new vaccination campaign which is starting

As the Paris Olympic Games approach, health authorities are increasing their vigilance against Covid-19.

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Covid-19: everything you need to know about the new vaccination campaign which is starting

As the Paris Olympic Games approach, health authorities are increasing their vigilance against Covid-19. Even if SARS-Cov2 is currently circulating little in France, there is no question of being caught off guard by an upsurge in cases this summer. This is why a new vaccination campaign against Covid-19 was launched this Monday, April 15 until June 16. The objective is to “protect those most at risk of developing a serious form of the disease, throughout the summer period, and the Olympic and Paralympic Games, until the fall”, specifies the High Authority for Health ( HAS) in an opinion delivered on February 8. “If the epidemiological situation justifies it,” the campaign could extend until July 15, specifies the health authority.

Read the Covid-19 file: everything you need to know about the government's latest measures

The targets of this campaign are more specifically people aged 80 and over, residents of nursing homes and long-term care units (USLD), immunocompromised people and “any person at very high risk according to each individual medical situation », Indicate the recommendations of the HAS. These people are actually more likely to have severe forms. “Of the 30,000 hospitalizations during the previous epidemic, more than 15% of victims were 75 years old. Among admissions to intensive care, 93% of them concerned people with a recall dating back more than 6 months, indicates Anne-Claude Crémieux, president of the technical committee on vaccinations of the HAS. Covid is therefore still a threat: last winter it caused three times more deaths than the flu. »

The authorities also remind that anyone wishing a booster will be able to benefit from it free of charge, provided that a period of at least three months has passed after the last injection or Covid contamination. All those concerned will receive a priority dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine (messenger RNA) which protects against the Omicron XBB.1.5 variant. In the event of contraindication or intolerance, it will be possible to use the Novavax vaccine, which also targets the omicron variant but based on a technology other than messenger RNA (recombinant protein antigen vaccine).

Also read: Flu, Covid, shingles, pneumococcus… Why seniors should be vaccinated

Should this vaccination campaign worry us about the risk of an epidemic outbreak? Not particularly. It intervenes above all in anticipation of the significant mixing of populations expected during the Olympic Games. “If we are dealing with a new variant imported or emerging in the territory, the gathering of the population inevitably becomes a factor in accelerating its spread,” warns Anne-Claude Crémieux. “But a campaign also took place in spring 2023 due to a rapid fading of vaccine protection 3 to 6 months after the last booster, and this outside the context of the Olympics. »

For the moment, there is no need to worry about the circulation of Covid-19 in France. According to the latest Public Health France bulletin, dated April 10, surveillance indicators remained “stable” throughout the territory, even “very low” in wastewater analyses. There was also no increase in suspicions of Covid-19 among SOS doctor acts, which recorded “low levels” of infections in the city for all age groups. Same observation for the hospital environment.

Weak does not mean absent. Even if it is not circulating much today, the virus is still around. Since last November, the authorities have closely monitored the rise of the Omicron JN.1 sub-variant, now the majority in the country and around the world. According to the latest flash survey by Public Health France (March 18), this variant represented 73% of genomic sequences. “The JN1 variant began to circulate at the end of last summer and presents numerous mutations compared to previous lineages, particularly in the Spike protein. », Indicates Marie-Anne Rameix Welti, head of the national reference center for respiratory viruses at the Pasteur Institute and professor of virology at the University of Versailles St-Quentin-Paris Saclay. “However, there is no evidence to date to suggest that it causes more severe forms and studies confirm that vaccines targeting the Omicron XBB.1.5 variant induce good protection against JN.1”.

It must be said that populations are now better protected against emerging variants thanks to the levels of protection acquired through vaccination and repeated infections. Everything therefore suggests that Covid-19 will not spoil the events of this summer. But the authorities insist: vaccination is the best defense to contain the possible spread of the virus. “Each booster increases protection against severe forms of Covid-19 by around 50%, but this level of protection is not constant, it drops from 3 months after the previous booster,” underlines Anne-Claude Crémieux.

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