Vaccine fears persist in French nursing homes

Connecting through their tablet screens, Fabienne Garbo is talking to her 86-year-old father, Claude, who suffers from an illness similar to Alzheimer's.

He was eligible for a COVID-19 shot as soon as France started vaccinating care home residents.

Claude was unable to convey his own wishes so Fabienne decided for him.

"I don't want my father to be a guinea pig, it's really about that for me. Why does it have to be the elderly? No. But then it's true that he risks getting it (COVID-19), but I think it's the same with any other disease. Why inject him with a vaccine about which we don't know much as yet and which could also give him other side effects? And when I say side effects, these could be serious ones."

According to the French care home federation, refusal rates are running at about 10% nationally, despite the fact that COVID has killed more than 22,000 residents.

And, despite the risk that not inoculating all residents could delay the lifting of tight restrictions on outside visits and social interactions.

Florence Arnaiz-Maume, a representative of the national nursing homes union Synerpa, says increasingly residents and families are consenting.

"Today, the comments we get is that after we explain to residents, we have a high initial rate of consent, a rate that could go up to 60%, even without us really pushing. So, more and more people are consenting."

The World Health Organization has stressed the importance of rigorous checks on the effectiveness and safety of vaccines.

Based on published trial data on the Moderna, BioNTech-Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines, side effects have not been serious or long-lasting.