A shortage of COVID-19 vaccines has forced Paris and two other regions, which together account for a third of the French population, to postpone issuing the first doses, a source familiar with the discussion and health officials said on Thursday.
Europe is facing a vaccine shortage as pharmaceutical company Pfizer has temporarily slowed down supplies to make manufacturing changes, while AstraZeneca said it would reduce supplies of its shot awarded to the EU in the first quarter due to production issues at a Belgian factory.
Portugal said the rollout of the vaccine would be slower than planned, and Germany said the shortage would remain until April.
The Public Health Agency for Paris and the surrounding region, an area of 12.1 million people, told regional hospitals at a conference call on Wednesday that from February 2, all deliveries of the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to medical institutions would be suspended. . , said the source.
The agency said injections of the second follow-up dose would continue, according to the source. There was no indication during the call when the first doses would be resumed.
The agency cited as the reason for “extremely tight vaccine supplies and the need to guarantee the second injection for people who have already been vaccinated,” the source said. Reuters has seen a summary of the conference call.
The Paris Health Bureau, in a statement sent to Reuters, said it aims to give people first-dose injections next week, but this was subject to changes in the volumes of vaccine deliveries originally promised by the manufacturers.
The statement did not address what the agency had said to hospitals in the Paris region during the conference call.
The public health service for the Hauts-de-France region in the north said earlier on Thursday that it pushed back to the first week of March the injection of the first doses that had been planned in early February. It also cited delivery problems.
In the region around the wine-producing Burgundy area, the public health service said that meetings are being postponed for the first injections of COVID-19 vaccines to remedy shortages of supply.
Residents of nursing homes – among those most at risk of serious illness in the epidemic – are unlikely to be affected by the delays as most have already received the first dose.
But the delays are likely to affect people over the age of 75 and healthcare professionals who are currently receiving a first dose.
Most of the vaccines currently approved for use globally come in two doses: the first provides only limited protection against the virus, and the second is needed to fully vaccinate a patient.
The French Ministry of Health said on Wednesday that as of January 26, a total of 1.13 million first doses and 6,153 other doses had been administered.
Vaccine development in France, as in its European neighbors, lags far behind other countries. States including Israel, Serbia, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom have already vaccinated a much larger proportion of their population.
As EU countries decided to collect their vaccines collectively, the supply issues affecting France affect other countries in the bloc.
Portugal said the first phase of the vaccination plan will be extended by about two months until April, as delivery delays mean that they will receive half of the expected doses in March.
Germany is facing a shortage well into April. “We will still have at least ten tough weeks with a shortage of vaccines,” Health Minister Jens Spahn said in a Tweet.