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France to prioritize nursing home residents for vaccination

French Prime Minister Jean Castex said Thursday that COVID-19 vaccines will go to nursing homes residents first when doses become available in France, which is not expected before the end of the month.

France has purchased vaccines through agreements the European Union reached with drugmakers to secure shots for the EU's 27 member nations.

“France will have a potential 200 millions doses, which means 100 million people” since each vaccine requires two doses, Castex said while outlining the government's plans to immunize the country of 67 million people against the coronavirus.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex speaks during a press conference to outline France's strategy for the deployment of future COVID-19 vaccines, in Paris, Thursday Dec. 3, 2020. French Prime Minister Jean Castex said the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines will go to nursing homes residents when they will be available in the country, not before the end of the month. (Benoit TessierPool via AP)

The government has set aside 1.5 billion euros ($1.8 billion) for next year to make the vaccines available for free, he said. But Castex reaffirmed that vaccinations won't be mandatory.

Health Minister Olivier Veran said the vaccine developed by U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer and German company BioNTech, which is expected to arrive first, will go to residents and some staff members at nursing homes.

The first phase of the national campaign, scheduled to start by January, involves about 1 million people. Vaccines will be directly delivered in 10,000 nursing homes, Veran said.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex grimaces during a press conference to outline France's strategy for the deployment of future COVID-19 vaccines, in Paris, Thursday Dec. 3, 2020. French Prime Minister Jean Castex said the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines will go to nursing homes residents when they will be available in the country, not before the end of the month. (Benoit TessierPool via AP)

The second phase, to start in February, will focus on another 14 million people with risk factors for severe COVID-19, including the elderly.

Veran said the priority will go to people aged 75 and above, followed by people 65 and above and health care workers who are 50-years-old and older or who have health conditions making them vulnerable.

During the third phase, estimated to start during the spring, France will gradually open vaccination to the whole population, starting with people ages 50-64.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex speaks during a press conference to outline France's strategy for the deployment of future COVID-19 vaccines, in Paris, Thursday Dec. 3, 2020. French Prime Minister Jean Castex said the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines will go to nursing homes residents when they will be available in the country, not before the end of the month. (Benoit TessierPool via AP)

Family doctors will be the key in getting and delivering vaccines, officials said..

French health authorities will allow vaccines to be delivered that have been authorized by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

The EMA plans to convene a meeting by Dec. 29 to decide if there is enough safety and efficacy data about the Pfizer/ BioNTech to authorize its use. The regulator also said it could decide as early as Jan. 12 whether to approve a rival shot by American pharmaceutical company Moderna.

Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak