“Vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate” is the way that gives hope for a way out of the crisis, as Emmanuel Macron recalled in his speech on March 31: “It is the key to reconnect with life. The key to reopening our country. ” But when ? The question has several possible answers.
When everyone has had access to the vaccine, a return to normal can be expected. With the increase in the number of injections, this prospect is less distant every day. As of April 12, more than 10 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine, i.e. 16% of the population.
Vaccination has accelerated in recent weeks. Over the past week, on average, more than 200,000 people received a first injection each day. By maintaining exactly this rate, the entire population could have received one dose of vaccine in January 2022.
It seems far away. But this horizon is not immutable. First, of course, because an increased rhythm of vaccination, depending on the number of doses available, is possible – and desired. The arrival of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, for example, should play on the rise. But also because the improvement of the situation can intervene before a total vaccination.
The latest analyzes of the Institut Pasteur on the subject provide answers. Concretely, the researchers tried to calculate when we could remove the barrier gestures while not exceeding 1,000 daily admissions to the hospital, or two times less than currently and three times less than what was observed during the first and second waves.
Their hypothesis is based on a virus reproduction rate more important than during the spring of 2021, under the effect of the variants: a patient would infect four people in the absence of any barrier gesture. At the same time, around one in three French people would have been infected by the fall. In this situation, “it would be necessary that more than 90% of adults be vaccinated so that a complete relaxation of control measures can be envisaged ”.
There are nearly 53 million French people over 18 years old according to the latest estimates from INSEE. For nine out of ten to be vaccinated, that’s 47.6 million injections. Or, at the current rate, a level achievable in October 2021. If we lower the age to 15, the horizon is of the same order.
These latest analyzes appear less optimistic than before: the thresholds of 60 and 70% of the immune population were previously mentioned to curb the virus. “These high levels are explained by the fact that, if only adults are vaccinated, a major epidemic is still expected in children, contributing to the infection of unprotected parents and grandparents”, explain the researchers of the Pasteur Institute.
If only adults are vaccinated, a major epidemic is still expected in children
However, the possibility of vaccinating children is being explored. Pfizer / BioNTech has asked the United States to extend the authorization of its vaccine to adolescents aged 12 to 15 years.
“If vaccines are shown to be safe in children and to effectively reduce susceptibility,” that is, the risk of infection, then immunization of 60-70% of those under 65 , associated with that of 90% of over 65s, “could allow the complete relaxation of control measures”. That is, in total, 47.3 million injections to be performed. A threshold similar to that corresponding to 90% of vaccinated adults. Theoretically achievable, therefore, at the current rate, in October.
Is the pace sustainable? In fact, the government promises to go faster. “We will keep the objective that I have set for us, namely that by the end of the summer, all French people over 18 who wish to be able to be vaccinated,” said Emmanuel Macron in his speech. At the current rate, we would have to wait until November for all French people over 18 to be vaccinated.
Covering this entire population by the end of August would mean going from 200,000 to 300,000 first-dose injections per day. On April 3, Olivier Véran, Minister of Health, announced that the threshold of 500,000 doses (first or second) daily would be “soon” reached, which would make this pace accessible, thanks to additional deliveries and the deployment of large vaccination centers.
We are only talking about first injections here, and on the assumption that no major problem would disrupt the campaign. Nothing assured, therefore; but enough to consider an autumn horizon from which, in theory, all people over 18 years of age will have been able to have access to this first dose. And a new perspective, even though it will take more time to ensure sufficient and lasting immunity on a global scale, as the WHO pointed out in January.
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