Guillaume, his eyes glued to his phone, waits on a chair next to the counter of a pharmacy in the 17th arrondissement of Paris. This 60-year-old entrepreneur took time out of his lunch hour to get vaccinated against Covid-19. “My wife is quadriplegic, it’s essential that I do it so as not to put her in danger,” he explains. Behind the counter, pharmacists are bustling with customers, prescriptions in hand. “We have a lot of people,” says one of them quickly.
This Monday, October 2, marks the launch of the new vaccination campaign against Covid-19. Accustomed to booster doses every year since 2020, hundreds of Parisians have already rushed for doses. At 11 a.m. this morning, a pharmacy in the Opera district, in the center of the capital, had already vaccinated “five or six people”. And this is only the beginning, confides the pharmacist: “I think that the influx of patients will fall on us” during the week. “We have a lot of requests,” confirms another pharmacist who works in the 17th arrondissement.
But the pharmacies are prepared. A large part of them had planned this wave of vaccination. “We had ordered a large stock of doses,” informs the Opéra pharmacist, a mask on his face. However, not all pharmacies can vaccinate their patients. A few meters away, a pharmacist declares that she does not have room in her pharmacy: “We are not going to push the walls. So we did not order any vials of vaccines.”
The professional also adds that she works, “anyway, mainly thanks to tourism”. According to Pierre-Olivier Variot, president of the Union of Pharmacists’ Unions (USPO), “19,000, out of the 21,000, pharmacies in France are vaccinating”. Vaccination can also be carried out by a general practitioner, a nurse, a midwife or a dental surgeon.
So, who are those who come to be vaccinated? “Mostly people over 60,” says a pharmacist located near the Pereire metro stop (in the 17th). But not only that: Parisians are showing up, all ages combined, notes one of his colleagues from the 9th arrondissement. “People today are well documented and come for a very specific reason,” he explains.
Vaccination mainly targets those over 65, fragile people, people with comorbidities or immunocompromised people, pregnant women, and nursing home residents. But all people wishing to receive a booster dose can apply for it free of charge, provided they respect a deadline of six months after their last injection or Covid-19 infection.
This vaccination campaign was particularly anticipated, in particular to protect against new variants. “A new vaccine has been prepared for this fall,” announced Brigitte Autran, president of the Committee for Monitoring and Anticipation of Health Risks (Covars), this Monday morning on France Info. Its RNA has been modified to fight against the now majority variant: Eris (or EG 5) and Pirola (BA.2.86). “We received this new formula on Saturday,” reports the Pereire pharmacist. People came to us asking for it every day last week.”
Initially scheduled for mid-October, this vaccination campaign was brought forward by two weeks due to the increase in cases. “The Covid-19 epidemic has started again earlier than expected,” explained Brigitte Autran. The first cases were observed during the summer and “grew gradually in September,” she continued before assuring: “We did not let ourselves be surprised.”
In pharmacies, requests for tests are in fact increasing again, professionals indicate to Le Figaro. But few people get tested.
Benjamin Davido, infectious disease specialist at the Raymond-Poincaré hospital in Garches, guest on France Inter this Monday morning, deplored this situation: “The Covid-19 figures are extremely vague. [...] There is no more indicator, the SI-DEP network no longer works. We fell from one extreme to the other: from all screening to no screening at all.” Thus, Brigitte Autran recalls that to minimize the risks of developing “serious forms” of the disease and “avoid going to hospital”, vaccination remains largely “recommended”.