France to speed up vaccinations

The French government has decided to accelerate its coronavirus vaccination program by further widening the first group to receive the shot.

Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Thursday that any French citizen aged 75 and older, as well as healthcare workers aged 50 and older, will have access to the vaccine this month. Vaccination for them was originally planned to start in February.

The government plans to give the Pfizer vaccine to 1 million people by the end of January, giving priority to the elderly in nursing homes.

But only around 500 people have been vaccinated as of Sunday, one week after vaccinations started on December 27.

The process has possibly been held up over the need to gain consensus of nursing home residents and have them receive health checks in advance.

The government also says it will increase the interval between the first and second doses of the vaccine to six weeks, instead of originally planned three weeks, to be able to use more vaccines for other people.

Castex expressed hope for the vaccine as a way to get out of the crisis. Concerns are growing about possible rapid spread of infections after the winter holidays.