President Emmanuel Macron on Monday faced growing pressure to accelerate France’s Covid-19 vaccination drive which has seen just a few hundred people receive the jab, with the French leader himself reportedly livid over the sluggish pace.
Just over 500 people have received the vaccine so far in France, with critics pointing to the figure of 200,000 people who have been immunised in Germany in a similar timeframe after the EU-wide rollout began a week ago.
“What we have seen is a government scandal,” Jean Rottner, the head of France’s Grand Est eastern region, which has seen a particularly sharp rise in infections, told France 2 television.
“Things need to accelerate,” said Rottner, a member of the right-wing Republicans (LR) opposition party. “The French need clarity and firm messages from a government that knows where it is going. It is not giving this impression.”
With pressure growing on Macron to take personal responsibility for the situation, the Elysee said the president would host a meeting later Monday with officials including Prime Minister Jean Castex to discuss the vaccine rollout.
The situation is worsened by a scepticism about vaccinations in France that is far higher than in other countries, despite being the country that produced Louis Pasteur, the 19th century scientist who pioneered immunisation.
According to an opinion poll by Ipsos Global Advisor in partnership with the World Economic Forum last week, just 40 percent of French want to take the vaccine compared with 77 percent in Britain.