France brings forward third COVID-19 vaccine shot

COVID-19 vaccination center in Nice
A medical worker prepares a dose of the "Comirnaty" Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination center in Nice, France, November 23, 2021. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

PARIS, Dec 17 (Reuters) - France will from next month reduce the time between second and third COVID-19 vaccination injections to four months and require people to show proof of vaccination to enter some venues, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Friday.

The gap between shots is currently five months but the French government is concerned about the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Castex said that big public parties and fireworks would be banned on New Year's Eve and recommended that people - even if vaccinated - test themselves before attending year-end parties.

To increase pressure on people to get vaccinated, the government will present a bill early next year to change the French health pass into a vaccination pass. That means people will have to be vaccinated to enter restaurants or use long-distance public transport.

Under current rules, a recent negative test can serve as a health pass even without vaccination.

"We cannot allow that the refusal of a few French people to get vaccinated affect the life of the entire country," Castex said in a televised speech.

Castex said the rapid spread of the Omicron variant was also behind restrictions being imposed on travel from Britain to France from Saturday. read more

Castex said that while the fifth wave of COVID-19 in France - driven by the Delta variant - was close to its peak, the country had already registered several hundred cases of the Omicron variant and that health authorities expected it to spread quickly and become dominant early next year.

In the past three days, the seven-day moving average of new cases in France has been over 50,000 per day.

Reporting by Geert De Clercq; editing by Diane Craft and Cynthia Osterman

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