PARIS

To accelerate the vaccination campaign and save up on doses, France will extend the spacing between the two shots of mRNA COVID-19 injections from four weeks to six weeks, the health minister said.

From April 14, for all the first injections of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccine we will be offering a 42 day booster instead of the current 28, Oliver Veran said in an interview with the Journal du Dimanche news weekly published on Sunday.

“This will allow us to vaccinate faster without seeing any reduction in protection, because the average age of people vaccinated is falling and the level of immunity of those under 70 years is sufficient to space the two injections without loss of luck.”

For frail people or those with comorbidities, the gap between the two vaccines will be maintained to 28 days upon medical advice.

By adopting this strategy, France expects to save 1.8 million injections in the second half of May.

Veran said that many countries are following this strategy and scientists too have approved it.

After a slow start, the inoculation drive has picked up its pace in France, with 10 million people receiving the first dose. By mid-May another 10 million shots are scheduled to be administered ahead of the gradual reopening of public places.

To add even more flexibility to administer the available doses, health authorities will also consider the possibility of mixing the two mRNA vaccines, i.e first shot of Pfizer-BioNTech and a second of Moderna. “It will not be the rule, but it will not be an obstacle,” the minister said.

France is set to open vaccination slots from Monday for people over age 55 years who will receive doses of either the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, at pharmacies and with family physicians.

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