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Most people in France unwilling to have COVID-19 vaccine, poll finds

With only 40% saying they will be immunized, national inoculation program gives shots to just 100 people in first 3 days; health official says plan is marathon, not a sprint

The first person in a national immunization program, Mauricette, a French 78-year-old woman, receives a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Rene-Muret hospital in Sevran, on the outskirts of Paris, on December 27, 2020. (Thomas SAMSON / various sources / AFP)
The first person in a national immunization program, Mauricette, a French 78-year-old woman, receives a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Rene-Muret hospital in Sevran, on the outskirts of Paris, on December 27, 2020. (Thomas SAMSON / various sources / AFP)

PARIS, France — Just four in 10 people in France want to have a vaccination against COVID-19, a poll showed Tuesday, as concern also grows over the slow start to the country’s immunization campaign.

According to the poll by Ipsos Global Advisor in partnership with the World Economic Forum, just 40 percent of French want to take the vaccine.

This puts it behind even other laggards like Russia on 43 percent and South Africa on 53%, let alone those countries where eagerness to take the vaccine is high such as China on 80% and Britain on 77%.

Fear of side effects is the reason most often given for not wanting the vaccine, according to the poll.

In the United States, where a mass vaccination campaign has now begun in earnest, 69% of people now want the vaccine, a rise on October.

France began its vaccination campaign on Sunday along with most of the rest of the EU, targeting residents in care homes first.

Workers store boxes of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines in an ultra low temperature freezer in the AP-HP central pharmacy on the outskirts of Paris on December 26, 2020 (STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / POOL / AFP)

However fewer than 100 people were immunized in the first three days in France, a far slower pace than in neighboring Germany, let alone in the US or UK.

Rebuffing criticism on social media, a health ministry official said: “We have not set out for a 100-meter sprint but a marathon.”

“The start is cautious but we will step it up and vaccinate on a very wide scale,” the official said, noting that the authorities face a “very strong skepticism on the part of the French population.”

The official said there was no problem with supplies, with 500,000 vaccine doses now set to arrive in France every week.

The Ipsos Global Advisor poll was carried out in 15 countries online among more than 13,500 adults including some 1,000 in France.

With no let-up in infection rates in France, President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday chaired a meeting of top ministers and health officials to discuss the crisis.

Some regional leaders have pushed for at least local-level lockdowns to halt the spread of the virus but it is not yet clear what strategy the government will adopt after the New Year holidays.

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