France will push on with AstraZeneca vaccinations, says health minister

France will push on with AstraZeneca vaccinations, says health minister

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French authorities will continue to deploy the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, the country’s health minister announced on Thursday, despite some European countries stopping giving the jabs over worries about blood clotting.

Health Minister Olivier Veran said he had talked to the medical authorities in France, who did not recommend France following suit, after Denmark, Iceland and Norway suspended AstraZeneca doses.

Veran said the medical agency had encouraged him to stick to the EU drug regulator’s decision that the AstraZeneca vaccine was not dangerous.

The health minister’s comments come as Paris struggles to battle the Covid-19 pandemic, attempting to boost the vaccination campaign, with the aim of avoiding a third strict lockdown.

Foreign minister self-isolating

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Thursday started self-isolation for the novel coronavirus following contact with an infected family member.

The 73-year-old veteran diplomat is due to be tested on Thursday evening, a week after being in contact with the person.

French health minister Olivier Veran described the Covid-19 situation in the country as “tense and worrying” during his Thursday press conference, stressing the need for continued regional measures against high infection rates.

Veran said the government remained worried with the situation in three regions, Hauts-de-France, l’Île-de-France and Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur, noting a certain stability with the number of infections on a national level.

Talking about the most impacted regions, the health minister discussed Île-de-France, sometimes known as the Greater Paris region, where a patient is admitted to intensive care at hospitals every 12 minutes.

Relieving pressure

Tens or even hundreds of serious Covid-19 cases could be transferred out of the region around the capital and sent to other regions, to relieve pressure on hospitals, according to Veran.

The country is witnessing an average of 21,000 new cases of infection every day, Veran told journalists, without announcing a new round of lockdown restrictions.

“If the epidemic continues at this level and at this rate then we’ll have to take all the necessary measures,” said France’s top health official.

There are 3,992 patients in France currently receiving critical care on Thursday, 74 more than the day before, according to the health authorities.

This is far from the peak of 7,000 in spring and 4,900 in fall, but the pace of admissions has accelerated considerably since mid-January.

Culture sector

The French government also announced on Thursday new state aid for jobs in the culture sector and access for occasional workers to get sick and pregnancy leave.

Prime Minister Jean Castex met with trade union groups in the cultural industries, announcing support for artists in the region and helping young graduates who are starting their careers during a difficult period for the arts.

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