France’s Achilles heel

This week, a couple of nonagenarians took the last step. Coming from a neighboring village, they made the trip to the Bonnières-sur-Seine vaccination center to receive their second dose of vaccine, each on the arm of one of their granddaughters. In this city of Yvelines, the over 80s are rather rare in the mini “vaccinodrome” set up in early June to speed up the vaccination campaign. The majority took advantage of the “vaccinobus” which circulated between March and June in the community of communes; the unvaccinated minority now draws a “glass ceiling” difficult to overcome.

According to data from Public Health France (SPF), this department is the one where the proportion of people over 80 who have received at least one dose of vaccine is the lowest: 70%, against 80% nationally. In Bonnières-sur-Seine, all have already been contacted at least once, thanks to the list established for sending “Christmas package for the elders”. But six months after the opening of the vaccination, some are still hesitant.

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“They are afraid of the vaccine, tell us: We have no hindsight, we do not leave our home, why would we do the vaccine?», explains Gaëlle Auffret, first deputy mayor of Bonnières-sur-Seine and head of the vaccination center. According to her, we must now “To do in the lace”. “When we talk to them, we manage to motivate them, but we have to reach out to them. People arrived in an ambulance, lying down, at the town hall [où les vaccinations avaient lieu auparavant], because their children, their grandchildren had convinced them “, she emphasizes.

In its long-term models, the modeling team of biologist Samuel Alizon “Assumes that the problem will be resolved in September and that almost all the older ones will be vaccinated”. But difficulties will arise from this summer. “There will be a wave of transmission of the Delta variant, as we know, since no one plans to take control measures this summer”, suggests the research director at CNRS, for whom “Every percent of unvaccinated elderly is going to be problematic”. “We are in the process of refining the models but that will obviously have serious consequences”, concludes Mr. Alizon.

“The situation requires rapid measures”

The statistics speak for themselves: unvaccinated over 80s have a risk of dying from the disease more than twelve times that of people aged 50 to 59, and 180 times that of 18-39, according to the Opensafely statistical study. Some 20% of this population therefore remain particularly vulnerable, while, in the 70-79 age group, nearly 90% of people have received a first dose.

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