Vaccine Skepticism in France Concerns Health Authorities

Alain, 92, receives a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Champmaillot EHPAD (care homes and day centres for elderly people) as France begins vaccination against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Dijon, France

French health authorities, who have been concerned over polls showing the majority of French were wary of vaccines against COVID 19, may have had a surprise with the number of people who have signed up for shots starting Monday, reserved for those 75 and older or with a high health risk.

The health agency reported more than 500,000 appointments scheduled for the first of two shots until Feb. 14, saturating the system. The agency said an internet site set up as one means to make appointments was receiving up to 20,000 connections a minute. More appointments can be scheduled after that date, with the progressive arrival of more vaccines.

France has been lagging far behind European neighbors in vaccinating because of a strategy to start in nursing homes with complex consent forms for each person. Officials defended the strategy, but got the message and are now setting up vaccination centers and providing daily figures about the number of people inoculated. Paris announced 19 centers opening Monday.

Authorities appear to have underestimated the wish of the people to get protection from the virus after early polls that showed up to 60% of the French were wary. Latest polls showed a drastic turn-around as deaths mount, with nearly 70,000 counted by Friday.

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