France to prioritise overseas territories for J&J COVID-19 vaccine

FILE PHOTO: Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is administered in Bay Shore, NY

PARIS (Reuters) - France is likely to prioritise citizens based in its overseas territories and those with low income for the single-dose COVID-19 vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson, an official with the health ministry said on Tuesday.

French President Emmanuel Macron last week ordered a third national lockdown expected to last at least a month in the hope of pushing back a third wave of COVID-19 infections that threatens to overwhelm hospitals.

Meanwhile, authorities are speeding up vaccinations across the country after what critics depicted as a slow start earlier this year. The aim is for 30 million people to have received first-round doses by mid-June, compared to 9.35 million as of Monday.

The other approved vaccines in the European Union, which are Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca, require a two-dose regimen, whereas J&J's recently approved vaccine is delivered in a single dose.

This allows for more deployment flexibility, the official said.

J&J's vaccine, like AstraZeneca's vaccine, can also be stored at refrigerator temperatures. France expects to receive around 600,000 doses of the jab later this month.

"There are discussions still taking place, but we expect to prioritize first doses to overseas territories, where the vaccines are particularly difficult to deliver," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"We are also contemplating the possibility of assigning doses to low-income populations that are eligible to vaccination but who do not have good access to the healthcare system or are hard to reach," the official added.

(Reporting by Matthias Blamont; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)