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France to step up its H1N1 flu vaccination programme

By LARA PICKFORD-GORDON Saturday, November 28 2009

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SPEAKING TO THE MEDIA: French President Nicolas Sarkozy, speaking to the media at yesterday's press conference held at the International Finance Centr...
SPEAKING TO THE MEDIA: French President Nicolas Sarkozy, speaking to the media at yesterday's press conference held at the International Finance Centr...

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has not yet received the Influenza A H1N1 2009 pandemic vaccine, but said France will shortly be stepping up its vaccination programme for the French people.

Sarkozy held a media briefing at the International Financial Centre yesterday following a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to lobby India’s support, prior to the upcoming climate change Summit in Copenhagen. When asked if he had been vaccinated, the French President responded that he would get the vaccine “when the time comes”. The French president said it was hard to tell his people to get vaccinated, if he himself had not done so.

While most of the questions centred on climate change, a French reporter used the opportunity to ask a question about the French government’s H1N1 response.

Approximately 305,000 French people have been vaccinated and Sarkozy said more vaccine centres will be opened and the service will be accessible on days convenient to citizens.

The reporter initially asked Sarkozy about the government’s plans to step up its vaccine programme since the H1N1 2009 pandemic had reached an epidemic in France, and new cases were being diagnosed.

Sarkozy said the French press had reported that the government was being overly cautious, having scared the public by purchasing a large number of vaccine doses. He referred to the criticism via the media about why the government was opening so many vaccine centres.

Sarkozy said his comment was not a criticism, but statement of fact. He said the French government took the flu epidemic very seriously, and if millions of doses of vaccines were purchased it was because a problem was anticipated. He said the opening of more vaccine centres will be accelerated to reach more people. Sarkozy reminded the reporter of a story which said the French did not believe in vaccination.

He said everyone, including the media had to “keep a cool head” in reports and not “say white one day, and black on the next”.

The most recent figures for the France surveillance system indicate that the number of persons infected with the Influenza A H1N1 pandemic has passed 2.7 million. Reports state that over a week the number of persons infected increased to 712,000. The number of deaths had increased from 48 to 57. The French Health Minister, Roselyn Bachelot, was reported as saying the epidemic was in “full acceleration” and was encouraging parents to have their children immunized.

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