The majority of French health workers have been vaccinated against coronavirus. However, there is a small minority who are still not vaccinated. A new law that requires them to have the shots has exposed the gap as infections are on the rise.
French officials have declared that France is now in its fourth wave of pandemics. They pushed for the law mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for health workers to protect hospitals and prevent a new lockdown. Gabriel Attal, a spokesperson for the government, said that the law is not meant to stigmatize unwilling health care workers but to reduce the risk to vulnerable patients they care for.
The law, adopted by parliament early Monday, also sets up a “health pass” for everyone in order to access restaurants and other public venues. Both measures have prompted intense debate and two straight weekends of protests around France. Demonstrators included health care workers wearing white coats.
Many people cite inaccurate information on vaccines that is circulating online, are concerned about their long-term effects and want more time to make a decision. Many health workers stated that they were not against the mandate but the vaccines.
One Paris protest saw people carrying signs that read “My body, My choice.” A health worker dressed up as the Statue of Liberty called it “act of violence” in order to force people to get vaccines.
Celine Augen is a secretary in a doctor’s practice. She knows she could lose her job if it doesn’t go through, but she protested Saturday.
She said, “I’m here today to support the freedom to choose whether to get vaccinated”
Solene Manable is a recent nursing student who works in a Lille hospital. She said that there are many health workers who do not want to be vaccinated, because they don’t know enough about vaccines.
Scientists now say this is false. Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca were all tested on thousands of people in France. The results have been made public. Worldwide, more than 2 billion people have received coronavirus vaccines. This includes most French adults.
Vaccine hesitancy among some health workers has been an issue in the U.S. and elsewhere, too. The French mandate is provoking anger among the political fringes of a country that has been long considered more vaccine-skeptic then its European neighbours.
France has been the victim of medical scandals in recent years involving breast implants, diet pills, and vaccines. These have raised questions about the credibility of France’s medical establishment. It is not uncommon to suspect large pharmaceutical companies. Politicians on the extreme right as well as the left are fueling this suspicion for their own ends.
Bruno de Ligny (retired physician) has been volunteering in Normandy’s vaccination centers. He stressed that although the technology behind Moderna and Pfizer vaccines is new, it has been in development for over 20 years. __S.22__
He said that health workers claim they want the “freedom” to not be vaccinated. “They don’t realize what they really want is freedom to kill,” he said.
President of the Association of Emergency Physicians of France Patrick Pelloux praised the French government’s decisive actions in dealing with rising infections. France is currently seeing over 20,000 new infections per day, up from the few thousand seen in July.
Pelloux stated that workers in low-skilled health care jobs are the most vulnerable to vaccine-related diseases. This is a result of what he described as a “class struggle” in public hospital systems, which have little interaction between different levels.
France’s public healthcare agency reported that 72.2% had received a COVID-19 vaccination for the first time in June. This compares to 58.7% and 50% respectively for nurses and assistant nurses. This discrepancy dates back to the pandemic. According to health authorities, 72.2% doctors had received a flu vaccine in the winter 2018. Only 20.9% of assistant nurse nurses had.
Many health workers feel that they are being treated poorly and underappreciated.
Pelloux, an emergency medicine physician, says that he is irritated by the rise in vaccine resistance within his field.
“Our job is not to kill people. Our job is to heal them.” He said that it is our civic and ethical duty to get vaccined and reduce hospital-acquired COVID infection. Health workers were among the most vulnerable and infected.
Protesters claimed that they would eventually agree to the shots if they were forced to, but they would still resent it. Others claimed they would try to purchase fake vaccine certificates. French police arrested several individuals suspected of selling fake vaccine certificates via social media. These documents can be sold for several hundred dollars each.
The majority of French adults are fully vaccinated and many more have waited to get their shots in the last two weeks. Despite the protests and all the attention, polls show that French vaccine hesitancy is declining in recent months. Most people also support the mandate to provide vaccines for health care workers.
Many people want the government go further. Recent polls have shown that the majority of French support mandatory coronavirus vaccination for all.