Mandatory vaccination: will France end up giving in?

Will compulsory vaccination against Covid-19 end up being imposed in France? Last October, the Senate rejected a bill in that direction. The text, presented by members of the socialist group, was even widely rejected (262 votes against 64). But since then, the environment has changed: the epidemic is gaining ground and the Omicron variant fuels fears of a new wave of contamination. At the end of November, the future German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that “the vaccination obligation would be the subject of a bill presented to parliament before the end of the year.” Other countries like South Africa are considering forced passage.

France, for its part, favors the “Go to” strategy. The health insurance funds send letters, call one by one those who have forgotten about the vaccine. A system complemented in the field with the deployment of mobile vaccination centers. But convincing refractory or isolated people is not easy. For hundreds of calls made by state agents, only a few quotes are obtained. At this rate, it will take a long time for France to catch up with neighboring countries. According to a recent study, our vaccination rate among people aged 60 to 69 and over 80 peaked at 84% in early November, fifteen points less than in Iceland, Ireland, Scotland, Spain, Norway, Malta and Portugal , which show rates equal to or equal to close to 100%.

According to the same study, France would have prevented “only” 45% of the deaths linked to the epidemic thanks to injections. Average performance from a European point of view. This situation saddens immunization specialists. Sometimes even to the point of making them change their mind about its mandatory nature. “All my life I preferred to convince than to oblige. But we have to get out of this situation. I wonder if it would not be better today to make vaccination compulsory”, confesses Pierre Saliou, associate professor of the Val de Grâce and honorary president of the French Academy of Sciences of Overseas

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We are not very far from that, says the scientist. The health pass is already a strong limitation. “Payability – the established term that corresponds to the strategy chosen by Emmanuel Macron – has been used for a long time in the field of public health. It does not directly oblige the population to act, but by generating a significant social cost, it strongly encourages following the guidelines ”, recently explained Jocelyn Raude, professor-researcher in social psychology at the School of Higher Studies in Public Health (EHESP).

A growing hesitation

But what saddens Pierre Saliou the most is to see that part of the population refuses to be vaccinated without any real argument. “Look who has severe forms today. The vast majority are unvaccinated people. It is simple and clear. All the statistics around the world say it. And despite that, some tell us that it is. Of a lie. His word even finds a strong resonance on social media. ” During this time, the virus continues to circulate, allowing the appearance of new variants.

“At the end of the 2000s, vaccination was still the subject of a very broad social, political and cultural consensus in our country,” says Jocelyn Raude. But starting in 2009, 2010, we observe a change in French society thanks to a series of controversies: the H1N1 flu campaign marked by questions about the independence of experts from the pharmaceutical industry, the Mediator affair … Since then , the hesitation for vaccines has grown inexorably ”. France, in this area, even stands out from other developed countries because the fear of side effects seems to be more significant there.

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“There have always been vacillations in the history of our country. But what is particularly alarming is that part of the French are becoming radicalized and that it is impossible to argue with this segment of the population ”, laments Pierre Saliou. The expert recently experienced this: one of his lectures on the history of vaccination became an argument for the intervention of an anti-ax group. “When you explain to people that you need to be vaccinated, that you know the subject very well because you have spent your professional life studying it, but in front of people they prefer to listen to the self-proclaimed experts and call you a liar, what do you want to do? “, deplores Pierre Saliou.” Given the evolution of certain mentalities, soon there will be only one way to achieve herd immunity, “said the specialist: to make vaccination mandatory.



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