COVID: France begins vaccinating children aged 5 to 11 as Omicron variant takes hold

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Vaccination for children aged five to 11 was on Wednesday opened in France.

“We are opening from today vaccination of children,” health minister Olivier Véran told BFM news channel, “and in the morning there will be the ‘children 5-11-year-old’ category on the platforms for appointments.”

“Vaccinations can start without delay, the centres are ready,” he added.

The announcement comes after the country’s ethics committee endorsed the move last week, as vaccination of vulnerable children was opened.

About 90% of French adults are fully vaccinated as well as over three-quarters of children aged 12 to 17, according to health ministry data.

Véran said however that 12 to 17-year-old will not for the moment be offered booster doses.

Adults and teenagers are required to show a COVID pass — attesting they have either been fully vaccinated, tested negative for COVID-19 over the previous 48 hours or recently recovered from the disease — to visit bars, restaurants, cultural and leisure venues as well as use long-distance public transport.

The French government has for now not imposed any new measures to tackle a recent surge of infections and to curb the spread of the Omicron variant.

But it is planning to swap its current COVID pass with a “vaccine pass” that would only allow fully vaccinated people to access the different venues concerned with the pass.

The government will convene on December 27 for an exceptional cabinet meeting on the topic with the proposed legislation expected to be presented to lawmakers in early January.

About six million French adults are unvaccinated and the move is designed to force them to take the plunge. The government is also mulling imposing the pass to workplaces, although unions are against it.

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Some 72,800 new infections were reported on Tuesday in France which government spokesman Gabriel Attal said was linked to the “Omicron wave” with about 20% of all new cases now due to the latest variant of concern.

Attal said that since the announcement last week by Prime Minister Jean Castex of the government’s plan to impose a “vaccine pass” the number of appointments for first vaccinations has doubled.

About 50,000 first doses were administered on Tuesday, “a level we hadn’t reached in several weeks or even several months,” Attal told reporters.

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