French holidaymakers will have access to Covid vaccines wherever they are in the country this summer, the government has announced.
The move, introduced on Monday, follows a dropping-off in the number of first vaccine jabs and warnings of a fourth wave of coronavirus as the rate of Delta variant infections rises.
In France, people often take the entirety of July or August off work, and there have been reports of people postponing their coronavirus jabs due to previous rules that the second dose should be administered in the same place as the first.
Mobile vaccine units are being introduced in popular tourist spots, including beaches.
The health minister Olivier Véran had initially opposed loosening the second dose rules because of the difficulty of changing the distribution of vaccine stocks. He also suggested doctors and paramedics in certain holiday hotspots had “other things to do than vaccinate the entire French population during the summer”.
He changed his mind after the number of daily infections, which had been dropping, increased. The number rose for a fifth consecutive day on Sunday.
“For the last five days, infections have stopped dropping and begun to rise again due to the Delta variant, which is very contagious.
“The English example shows that a wave is possible from the end of July. We can limit it and limit the impact with health measures, vaccinations and test and trace,” Véran tweeted.
On Sunday, he stressed the importance of getting vaccinated.
“We have to go faster. The country is engaged in a race against the clock. Vaccines greatly lower the risk of getting a serious case [of Covid] including the Delta variant.”
“The threat of the Delta variant is real and could come and spoil our holidays and the summer,” Véran added.
Just over a quarter of positive Covid tests in France are the Delta variant and the number of cases has hit a weekly average of 2,500 a day, much lower than new daily casesin the UK but still rising. French health officials say there is also a rise in the Delta variant among those who are fully vaccinated.
According to the latest official figures from the health ministry, 33.96 million people in France (50.69%) have had at least one Covid-19 vaccine and 22.81 million (34.05%) are fully vaccinated.
Gabriel Attal, the government spokesperson, said at the weekend: “You can go to the beach and also get vaccinated. This summer, the vaccine will come to you.”
Attal added: “We have to do everything to avoid the epidemic taking off again in France.”
Vaccine slots can be booked on the centralised appointment system Doctolib and there are also a number of walk-in vaccine centres.