According to recent reports, it has been found that while most French health care workers are vaccinated against the virus a small but vocal minority is holding out. A new requiring them to get the shots is exposing the divide with infections spreading rapidly.
The French government has declared that the nation has officially entered its “fourth wave” of the pandemic and pushed the law instructing coronavirus vaccines for health care workers, to protect hospitals and avoid a new lockdown.
Gabriel Attal the government spokesman says that the move isn’t meant to stigmatise vaccine hesitancy among the health care workers but to limit risks to the vulnerable people they care for. A “health pass” has been set up for by the parliament on early Monday everyone in order to access restaurants and other public places. Health care workers in white coats have been among the protestors.
However, these measures have created an intense debate and two straight weekends of protests around France. There are many myths and misinformations that are being circulated on internet about the vaccines, worry about their long-term effects or want more time to decide.
Moreover, many health workers said they took issue with the mandate, not the vaccines themselves.
At one Paris protest, some carried signs reading “My body, my choice”, and a health worker dressed as the Statue of Liberty called it an “act of violence” to force people to get vaccinated. Celine Augen, a secretary at a doctor’s office, knows she may lose her job if she refuses to get a shot but protested Saturday anyway. “I’m here today in favour of the freedom to chose to get vaccinated or not,” she said.
Solene Manable, a recent nursing school graduate who is working in a Lille hospital, said, “There are many health workers who don’t want to get vaccinated because we don’t know much ab96+out the vaccines.”
Scientists say that is simply not true anymore. The vaccines used in France — Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson — were tested in tens of thousands of people around the world, and results of the studies have been shared with the public.
In the US and other places vaccine hesitancy has been an issue but the French government has order is rousing up anger among the political groups in a country long considered more vaccine-sceptic than its European neighbours.
In recent decades France has faced medical scandals involving vaccines, diet pills and breast implants that have seeded doubts about the medical establishment.
More than 2 billion people worldwide have now received coronavirus vaccines, including most French adults, providing a broad overview of vaccines’ impact on people’s health.
Suspicion of big pharmaceutical companies is relatively common, and politicians on both the extreme right and the left are now fuelling that scepticism for their own ends.
Retired doctor Bruno de Ligny, who volunteers in vaccination centres in Normandy, stressed that the technology behind the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines widely used in France, while new, has been under research for more than 20 years.
He also noted that French health workers must already be vaccinated against hepatitis B — a vaccine not compulsory for the rest of the population — but “no one claimed that was dictatorial when it was implemented”.
“These health workers say they want the freedom not to be vaccinated,” he said. “They do not realize that what they are really asking for is the freedom to kill.” Patrick Pelloux, president of the emergency room doctors’ union Association des Medecins Urgentistes de France, lauded the French government for taking decisive action in the face of rising infections.
The country is now seeing about 20,000 new infections a day, up from just a few thousand in early July, and has counted over 111,000 virus-related deaths in the pandemic.
Pelloux said workers in the lowest-skill health care jobs are among the most vaccine-wary, a symptom of what he called an overlooked “class struggle” in public hospitals, where there is little interaction between different levels of medical workers.