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  • February 22, 2021
Olivier Véran, the French health minister, second from right, in Nice on Saturday. He said the consulting giant McKinsey  Company had helped with the vaccine rollout but played no role in policy decisions.
Credit…Valery Hache/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

McKinsey Company has become a magnet for controversy in France after the public learned of millions of euros worth of contracts to help plan vaccine distribution that has been derided for being far too slow, Liz Alderman reports for The New York Times.

The contracts — totaling 11 million euros ($13.3 million), of which €4 million went to McKinsey — were confirmed by a parliamentary committee last week. The government of President Emmanuel Macron, which has been under fire for months for stumbling in its handling of the pandemic, was forced to admit it had turned to outside consulting firms for help managing the response.

called for McKinsey to help define distribution routes for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which must be kept as cold as minus 80 degrees Celsius during transport and storage. The company would benchmark France’s performance against other European countries. McKinsey experts would also help coordinate a vaccination task force comprising officials from numerous agencies, with some decision chains involving up to 50 authorities.

In early January, France had vaccinated only “several thousand people,” according to the health minister, compared with 230,000 in Germany and more than 110,000 in Italy.

Other contracts provided for Accenture, the global information technology consultancy, to roll out the campaign’s monitoring systems, and for two French consultancies, Citwell and ILL, to help with “logistical support and vaccine distribution.”

The government’s strategy focused on delivering the vaccines to 1,000 distribution points in France, from which the doses would be sent in supercooled trucks to nursing homes, clinics and local mayors’ offices. In Germany, the program was simpler: Authorities decided to administer the vaccine in 400 regional centers.

By the first week of January, France had one million vaccine doses in hand, but the delay in getting them into peoples’ arms was becoming public knowledge. The pace has recently picked up. But with 4.7 doses administered per 100 people, according to a New York Times database, France still trails neighbors like Germany and Italy.

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