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First Pfizer BioNTech Covid vaccines roll off production line in France

Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines were packaged for the first time on French soil on Wednesday, hailed by President Emmanuel Macron as an important step as the country ramps up its vaccination campaign.

First Pfizer BioNTech Covid vaccines roll off production line in France
The French firm Delpharm is now packaging and shipping the Pfizer vaccine for EU countries. Photo: Sameer Al Doumy/AFP

“250 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines made in France in 2021: that’s our objective,” Macron said on Twitter.

“It begins from today with the first BioNTech-Pfizer vaccines produced on the Delpharm site at Saint-Remy-sur-Avre” east of Paris, he added.

The production represents a deal with French pharma firms, which have not yet produced a licensed vaccine, to use their facilities to increase production of vaccines in Europe.

The vaccines were made in BioNTech’s factory in Germany — they arrived in France on Tuesday, where subcontractor Delpharm is charged with putting the vaccines into vials which will then be delivered to centres for distribution.

They are not destined just for France, with Delpharm telling AFP the country would receive its proportion of allocated doses among EU states – around 15 percent.

Another company will begin filing Moderna vaccines in central France in a few days, with the Johnson & Johnson and CureVac vaccines to follow soon after.

France’s inoculation drive got off to a slow start but has ramped up in recent weeks, with the country expected to hit on Thursday its mid April target of 10 million people getting at least one dose of the vaccine.

READ ALSO When will you be eligible for the Covid vaccine in France?

On Wednesday 9.7 million people had received their first dose and 3.3 million had received both doses.

The government says that every adult who wants the vaccine will be able to get it ‘by the end of the summer’.

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COVID-19

Where in France do you still need a face mask?

In France, masks will no longer be required on indoor transport as of Monday, May 16th. Here are rules and recommendations that are still in place:

Where in France do you still need a face mask?

Members of the public in France have been asked to wear face masks for the most part of two years, at times even outside in the street.

Since March 14th, 2022, the facial coverings have no longer been mandatory in most establishments such as shops, and as of Monday, May 16th, it will no longer be mandatory on indoor public transport. 

As of May 16th, you will therefore no longer be required to wear a mask in the following transports:

  • Buses and coaches
  • Subways and streetcars
  • RER and TER
  • TGV and interregional lines
  • Taxis

Regarding airplanes whether or not you must wear a mask is a bit more complicated.

On Wednesday, May 11th, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) announced that from May 16th onward it would no longer be required to wear a mask in airports and on board aircraft in the European Union. However, Germany has stated that it does not have the intention of lifting its requirement of wearing a mask on its airlines – this would include the Lufthansa airline. Thus, it will be necessary for passengers to still very to rules each airline has in place, which could be the case when travelling to a country that still has indoor mask requirements in place.

EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky specified that vulnerable people should continue to wear masks, and that “a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, to reassure those seated nearby.”

Masks still obligatory in medical settings

However, it will still be mandatory for caregivers, patients and visitors in health care facilities, specifically including hospitals, pharmacies, medical laboratories, retirement homes, and establishments for the disabled. 

For people who are vulnerable either due to their age or their status as immunocompromised, wearing a mask will continue to be recommended, though not required, particularly for enclosed spaces and in large gatherings.

Masks are also still recommended for people who test positive, people who might have come in contact with Covid-19, symptomatic people and healthcare professionals.

Will masks come back?

It is possible. French Health Minister Olivier Véran does not exclude the return of mandatory mask-wearing, should the health situation require it.

What are the other Covid-19 restrictions that remain in place?

The primary restriction that has not changed is the French government’s regulation for testing positive: If you are unvaccinated and test positive, isolation is still required for 10 days, if you are vaccinated, this requirement is seven days. Isolation can be reduced from 10 to 7 days or from 7 to 5 days if a negative covid test is performed, and symptoms are no longer present.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What Covid restrictions remain in place in France?

The French Health Ministry still recommends following sanitary measures such as: wearing a mask in places where it is still mandatory, hand washing, regular ventilation of rooms, coughing or sneezing into your elbow, and using a single-use handkerchief (tissue).

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