PARIS - France aims to have administered a third shot of a COVID-19 vaccine to some 18 million people by early 2022, a health ministry official said on Tuesday.
Last week, France's top health advisory body (HAS) recommended a booster shot for those aged 65 and over and for those with existing medical conditions that put them at risk.
"Those eligible for a booster shot have been able to make appointments since Monday this week. We see this as a genuine health requirement to extend protection, as some studies demonstrate," the official said.
"We are talking of around 18 million people who are currently eligible for a third dose. We hope to see some 12.4 million get this booster shot by year-end and the rest at the beginning of next year."
Government data shows nearly 72% of the total French population had received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of Aug 30. A little more than 65% had received two doses or one dose after having been diagnosed with COVID-19.
There is no consensus among scientists and agencies on whether a third dose is necessary.
Last week, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Ghebreyesus, said data on third shots was inconclusive. He had previously said they should be halted and that authorities should focus on delivering doses to poorer nations.
However, WHO Europe head Hans Kluge appeared to be more positive than the U.N. health body's past assessments on Monday, saying booster shots were a way to keep the most vulnerable safe.
A fourth wave of COVID-19 infections is receding in France but the government is taking a cautious stance as schools prepare to reopen after the summer vacation.
Vaccinations have picked up in recent months, and people now need a health pass, or proof of vaccination, to gain access to restaurants, bars, museums and sports venues.