COVID vaccine benefits seen in Europe

The number of coronavirus infections and deaths among elderly citizens has declined in Europe after they received at least one vaccine dose.

Some European nations started vaccination programs as early as December, putting high priority on the elderly. Government officials and experts say vaccinations have been working.

In France, more than 40 percent of people aged 75 or older had been vaccinated at least once as of Monday.

Of the roughly 700,000 residents of care homes for the elderly across the country, 89 percent have been vaccinated once and 68 percent twice.

French health officials say that in January, the weekly number of elderly people at care homes who tested positive for the coronavirus surpassed 9,000.

But they say the weekly infection and death tallies had fallen about two thirds by early this month.

Infections for the country as a whole rose slightly in the same period, with the death toll almost leveling off.

Prime Minister Jean Castex told reporters earlier this month that officials have confirmed the efficacy of vaccinations for people at high risk of infection.

More than 25,000 people have died of the coronavirus at elderly care homes across France since the outbreak last spring. That is more than one quarter of all the nation's COVID-19 fatalities.

Residents of such facilities have had to endure restrictions on outings and meetings with their families to prevent the spread of infection.

A senior official of a French care-home operators' group says he hopes vaccinations will help life return to normal as the past year has been devastating.