Just four in 10 people in France want to have a vaccination against Covid-19, a poll showed Tuesday, as concern also grows over the slow start to the country's immunisation campaign.
According to the poll by Ipsos Global Advisor in partnership with the World Economic Forum, just 40 percent of French want to take the vaccine.
This puts it behind even other laggards like Russia on 43 percent and South Africa on 53 percent, let alone those countries where eagerness to take the vaccine is high such as China on 80 percent and Britain on 77 percent.
Fear of side effects is the reason most often given for not wanting the vaccine, according to the poll.
In the United States, where a mass vaccination campaign has now begun in earnest, 69 percent of people now want the vaccine, a rise on October.
France began its vaccination campaign on Sunday along with most of the rest of the EU, targeting residents in care homes first.
However fewer than 100 people were immunised in the first three days in France, a far slower pace than in neighbouring Germany, let alone in the US or UK.
Rebuffing criticism on social media, a health ministry official said: "We have not set out for a 100-metre sprint but a marathon."
"The start is cautious but we will step it up and vaccinate on a very wide scale," the official said, noting that the authorities face a "very strong scepticism on the part of the French population".
The official said there was no problem with supplies, with 500,000 vaccine doses now set to arrive in France every week.
The Ipsos Global Advisor poll was carried out in 15 countries online among more than 13,500 adults including some 1,000 in France.
With no let-up in infection rates in France, President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday chaired a meeting of top ministers and health officials to discuss the crisis.
Some regional leaders have pushed for at least local-level lockdowns to halt the spread of the virus but it is not yet clear what strategy the government will adopt after the New Year holidays.