- France has begun vaccinating its nationals, and their families, living in South Africa.
- The French embassy is making use of some 2,000 specially imported doses of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine.
- This independent rollout, while South Africa's own struggles with supply constraints, has been met with some criticised.
- But France isn't the only country leading a foreign vaccination drive aimed at protecting its citizens in South Africa, the French Embassy told Business Insider SA.
- For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
French citizens over the age of 55 are being vaccinated in South Africa with specially imported doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine.
The French Embassy in South Africa began its own Covid-19 vaccine rollout on Thursday morning. The decision to vaccinate French citizens aged 55 and over follows a visit to the country by President Emmanuel Macron in late May.
The embassy and the Consulates General of Cape Town and Johannesburg were instructed to organise a vaccination campaign in line with Macron's commitment to vaccinate French citizens living abroad.
"French President Emmanuel Macron stated that France will offer vaccination to every French citizen, including those living outside of France, by 31 August 2021," the Spokesperson for the French Embassy in South Africa, Vigdis Beaussier, told Business Insider South Africa.
"The French government has taken the decision to offer vaccination to its citizens abroad, if local vaccination is not available or not easy to access."
The public announcement by the French Embassy on 14 June was met with some criticism. South Africa's own vaccination rollout has been delayed by supply shortages owing, in part, to wealthier nations hoarding doses.
"This is not right. The world knows it," Fatima Hassan of the Health Justice Initiative said on Twitter, arguing that France had blocked the Covid-19 TRIPS waiver which would allow countries to manufacture their own vaccines, thereby mitigating the current imbalance of supply.
"We have less than 2 million people vaccinated here because of a supply crisis. June 2021. But, now we have G7 vaccine apartheid right here locally."
French drug policy watchdog, Observatoire Transparence Médicaments (Medicines Transparency Observatory), echoed Hassan's critique, adding that the French foreign minister had recently "refused to clearly support the lifting of patents requested in particular by South Africa".
"At the same time, the French Embassy announced a vaccination campaign for French nationals only, while the South African population still has limited access."
But Beaussier argues that President Macron has "reaffirmed a number of times his commitment to support South Africa and India’s initiative for a waiver on the TRIPS agreement for Covid-19-related pharmaceutical interventions."
In response, Hassan says that Macron has constantly changed his tune regarding his support for the waiver.
"Macron flip flops… the one week he says he's for the waiver, the next week doesn't," Hassan told Business Insider SA.
"He's said many different things in the last few months and its not like they [France] have done anything significant or material to get vaccines to the Global South."
France's vaccination efforts in South Africa aim to reach roughly 2,000 French nationals. Vaccinations began on Thursday in Tshwane and will start on Saturday in Cape Town. The following people aged 55 and over are eligible for vaccination:
- French citizens and their married or civil union spouses.
- Foreign parents of French children who are minors or adults.
- Agents of French educational establishments abroad and of the Alliances Françaises in South Africa, and their married or civil union spouses.
"The vaccines are provided by the French government. They were shipped in specifically from France, with approval from South African authorities (the department of international relations and cooperation and South African Health Products Regulatory Authority)," said Beaussier.
"French residents in South Africa who will choose to be vaccinated under the French scheme will not be vaccinated through the South African scheme and will not use vaccine doses purchased by the South African government."
Because this rollout is an independent initiative, French citizens will not register via South Africa's Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS) and must, instead, schedule an appointment directly with the embassy online. French citizens will receive an SMS confirming their appointment time. The registration process includes completing:
- A patient information form
- A vaccination consent form
- A pre-vaccination medical questionnaire
And according to Beaussier, France isn’t the only country rolling out its own vaccine programme in South Africa.
"Other foreign missions in South Africa have made similar provisions, as part of their duty of care mission."
Despite being separate to South Africa's national rollout, Beaussier told Business Insider SA that the total number of vaccinations would be communicated to the South African government once the campaign had been completed.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect official comment attributed to French Embassy spokesperson, Vigdis Beaussier, upon request from the embassy’s Press Attaché who was previously quoted.