French Health Minister Olivier Veran speaks Thursday in Paris on the COVID-19 pandemic situation new measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Photo by Thomas Coex/EPA-EFE
Nov. 25 (UPI) -- France announced Thursday that any adult will be able to access COVID-19 booster shots as health officials stepped up their battle against a sharp rise in "fifth wave" infections.
Under the measures unveiled by French Health Minister Olivier Veran booster shots will become available to anyone age 18 or over beginning Saturday, while the wait time to receive a booster following the second dose of an initial vaccination round was reduced from six to five months.
Veran also announced that after Jan. 15, a booster shot will become necessary for a valid "vaccine passport" allowing users to enter restaurants and other public spaces.
The pass will expire for those who haven't gotten obtained the booster seven months after their last injection.
The moves come as France and other European countries struggle with a surge in COVID-19 infections. France's rate of positive cases have jumped more 80% in a week, officials said Tuesday, as new cases reach highs not seen August.
The government of President Emmanuel Macron, however, has resisted imposing new lockdowns or restrictions, citing figures showing hospitalizations and intensive care cases are not increasing as quickly.
"France is now experiencing a fifth wave, which will undoubtedly be stronger and longer than the one that occurred this summer," Veran told reporters in Paris. "We still believe that we can get through this wave without resorting to the most restrictive tools."
The new measures were rolled out following a meeting of the French Defense Council and after talks with local authorities over what new measures might be appropriate.
"We have destiny in our hands," Veran said. "Vaccination is the only responsible choice. To be free is to be responsible."