While the “the epidemic peak of the second wave has been crossed” according to Public Health France, the possibility of a vaccine against Covid-19 is approaching. “We are right to have high hopes in vaccines”, says Professor Didier Pittet, Swiss infectious disease specialist and president of the Independent Mission for the Assessment of the Covid-19 Crisis Management in France. Guest of franceinfo on Saturday, November 21, he believes that “we must already organize and prepare for vaccination campaigns”.
franceinfo: With the latest announcements from the laboratories, the vaccination campaigns are getting ready. In Paris for example, the town hall wants to start next January. Are we right to hurry like this?
Didier Pittet: We are right to have high hopes in vaccines. Because, as you have understood, there will be several vaccines, some of new generation, others of slightly older generations. But whatever, we will have vaccines. For the dissemination of vaccines to be important, we will have to wait a little longer. That the beginnings take place as quickly as possible, yes, that’s good. But let’s be logical for now, if we want to avoid a third wave through harmonious deconfinement, we cannot count on vaccines. Vaccines can only be counted on in the second half of the year, and possibly even early in the summer.
What can guarantee the effectiveness of vaccination in overcoming an epidemic?
First, you have to have vaccines that are very effective. We hear that the first clinical trials are extremely encouraging, that’s good. Then from that, we have to be perfectly sure that these vaccines are absolutely safe. We are starting to have good ideas, they will have to be confirmed. And then finally, these vaccines must be produced in very large quantities. We must already organize ourselves and prepare the dissemination and vaccination campaigns because, indeed, it will change our everyday life.
Will it be necessary to requisition gymnasiums, for example, as during the H1N1 flu vaccination campaign?
Absolutely. This is what to expect. And if that happens, all the better because that will mean that we have enough doses. And that’s what we all hope for. Therefore, all states are currently preparing vaccination plans which indeed include such logistical inputs.
Who should be vaccinated first?
There are going to be priorities, of course. Priorities that are discussed, moreover, because there are certain options: some people think that it is first necessary to vaccinate vulnerable people, nursing staff, priority staff. Others, on the contrary, say that we must first go and vaccinate the people who see the most people and therefore those who would be what we call “super spreaders” (super contaminators). All of these theories are under study. We work. There are models that are put in place to try to be as efficient as possible, as quickly as possible. And I think that’s a great hope for the year 2021.