France's lagging vaccine rollout puts the lens on consultants

12 January 2021 2 min. read

As France’s vaccine roll out continues to struggle, more and more criticism is mounting on government leaders, and in its slipstream the consultants they are using to help deliver inoculations.

The French Covid-19 immunisation scheme has been routinely lambasted by critics in recent weeks, having only managed to immunise less than 10,000 people between December 27th and early this week.

The performance has been labelled as scandalously slow by detractors, who have pointed out that hundreds of thousands of vaccines have been distributed in Germany over the same time span – while the UK has mustered 1.3 million vaccinations from an earlier stating date.

The country’s vaccination plan was announced by Professor Alain Fischer – a paediatric immunologist who was put in charge of the nationwide vaccine strategy. Working with Fischer were consultants from McKinsey & Company, who have been helping with strategic advice since the plan was unveiled in early December – and perhaps even earlier.

France's lagging vaccine rollout puts the lens on consultants

McKinsey has been advising on topics including “defining the logistical framework, establishing logistical benchmarking with other countries, and supporting the operational coordination of the task force” for the countrywide rollout.

Facing slow progress, the French Government vowed in early January to drastically speed up the roll-out, notably with a change of strategy to include health workers over 50, as well as residents of care homes. The new plan also aims to establish some 500 vaccination centres outside hospitals within the coming two weeks.

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal has confirmed reports that global management consultants McKinsey is still involved in the programme, with several other consultancies brought on board to support the vaccine campaign, including IT consultancy Accenture, Citwell and JLL.

The spending of public funds on private consultants has not been universally welcomed nationally, but the government defended the move by saying there was a need for extra support on logistics. Attal said during a weekly press conference that hiring external consultants provides “support from the private sector in addition to our civil servants' expertise… It is in this context that we hired McKinsey. As you know logistics are central in the vaccination campaign.”

Meanwhile, in the UK, McKinsey is one of the main consultancies tapped by the government in its Covid-19 response planning. The firm is among others involved with the struggling Test and Trace platform, which was supposed to curb the spread of Covid-19. Following criticism on hefty fees paid to externals, the programme has recently announced it is attempting to reduce its reliance on private sector consultants.