Under his red umbrella, Patrick hurries up. He leaves the Barbara village hall at the end of Place Jean-Jaurès in Saint-Ouen, a Christmas package for seniors under his arm. He had already spotted the turquoise blue bus installed in the square on the way there but this time, Mohamed, a young person in civic service, calls out to him. “Hello sir, are you 65 or over?” “
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Patrick is just 65 years old. The age from which “I know that I have a better chance of landing in intensive care because of the Covid-19, but also which allows me to benefit from the Christmas package”, he smiles. It is also from the age of 65 that the health insurance sends a voucher to be vaccinated for free against the seasonal flu. Like here, in the itinerant bus set up by the Seine-Saint-Denis department, where a nurse vaccinates people over 65 for free, even without health coverage.
A “dress rehearsal” for the Covid
With this vaccination campaign, the department hopes to increase the vaccination coverage of its population. “ We are slightly below the national average, details Laura Reques, deputy head of the prevention and health action service. But it is not a question of membership, rather of access to care. ” The flu vaccine coverage rate for those over 65 in Seine-Saint-Denis in 2019 was 45.14%, lower than the national average (52%).
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But for Stéphane Troussel, the president of the department, this campaign is also a ” general repetition “ for the one against the Covid, in the spring: “This does not mean that it will be the same device, but we must imperatively be in a close approach to allow the population to have access to the vaccine but also to a sufficient level of information, explains the chosen one. It is only in this way that we could fight against general mistrust ”.
“Have you already been vaccinated sir?” “ Mohamed asks, in the square. Patrick hesitates, his blue eyes questioning. ” Not yet. But… do you already vaccinate? “ There is obviously a misunderstanding between the two men. Patrick turns to the bus. “Oh, I thought you were telling me about the Covid vaccine! The one against the flu, I have already done it for over a month already. “
The librarian is not the only one confusing. “Many people ask us if we can vaccinate them against Covid, so that they can go on vacation with peace of mind, says Hatouma, the nurse. Some people ask me why the vaccination campaign started in the UK and not here. “
A vaccine in debate
Patrick hopes he can be vaccinated “Maybe in March”. For him, the Covid vaccine will be synonymous with a return to normal life. “I live alone and I don’t see anyone anymore, he regrets. I don’t even wonder if the vaccine could be dangerous for me. There is an emergency and there is no other solution. ” The librarian is going to spend Christmas alone in Saint-Ouen. “I don’t want to take the risk of joining my family in Brittany for the holidays. It’s not sad, it’s like that, I’ll go in February or March, when things get better… ”
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Behind a small black screen, Christian, 65, pulls his sweater up over his shoulder. This is the first time he has been vaccinated against the flu. He came here after touring the pharmacies in town. In Saint-Ouen as everywhere in France the flu vaccine is lacking. For this itinerant campaign (1), the department succeeded in securing 2,500 doses, in partnership with the regional health agency and health insurance.
“Because of my age, I know that I have a higher risk of developing a severe form of Covid and I don’t want to take the risk of being weakened by the flu, explains Christian. But not sure that I get vaccinated so easily against Covid. I will surely wait until the end of 2021 to have a little perspective. ” Hatouma admits that she doesn’t have a lot of answers for her. “But as soon as that is the case, we will have to come back very quickly. There are already too many received ideas. “
Shortage of flu shots
The French have vaccinated more against the seasonal flu this year, making access to vaccines complicated or even impossible:
Early December, 11.3 million vaccines had been dispensed, including 91% to priority people (88% in 2019), according to the Union of Unions of Pharmacists of Offices (USPO).
November 22, the stock stored by Public Health France has been released: 2.4 million additional doses have been made available to nursing homes and priority groups.
Beginning of November, Olivier Véran estimated that 18% of pharmacies were out of stock, when the USPO already spoke of 70 to 90% of establishments concerned.