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French Health Minister Details Plan to Accelerate COVID-19 Vaccinations

A doctor administers a dose of Pfizer-BioNtech coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccine to a woman on Jan. 4, 2020 at the Antonin Balmes gerontology center in Montpellier in the south of France.

French Health Minister Olivier Veran said Tuesday the nation was going to “amplify, accelerate and simplify” its COVID-19 vaccination program after coming under fire for the initial slow roll out of the program.

In an interview with French radio, Veran said more than 2,000 doctors, nurses and other health care workers have received vaccinations. He also announced that firefighters and home aid workers age 50 and older would also be prioritized “because they are also professionals who are in contact with fragile people and who may have to work with the sick."

The faster-paced vaccination campaign comes after the government was criticized for its slow rollout of the vaccine, delivering just over 500 inoculations in the first week, compared to hundreds of thousands delivered by Germany in the same period.

The criticism prompted French President Emmanuel Macron to call a meeting with Veran, Prime Minister Jean Castex and other leaders late Tuesday to discuss how to speed up the process.

Veran vowed to increase vaccinations exponentially in the next few days, promising the pace of the program “will be on par with that of our neighbors” by the end of the week.

He said France is prepared to deliver 500,000 doses per week of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and once it is approved by the European Medicines regulatory agency, (EMA) they will be prepared to deliver 500,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine per month. The EMA is expected to consider the Moderna vaccine Wednesday.