For weeks Julie * remained adamant: at 63, she would never get the Covid-19 vaccine. In early November, when Pfizer labs announced the “90%” effectiveness of its coronavirus vaccine candidate, this retired national education systemist remains oblivious to the encouraging speeches of some academics and government. “I immediately told myself that we were getting the vaccine from the bundles, we really don’t know how, we really don’t know why,” she says. First of all, a sixty-year-old man quickly suspects that the giants of the pharmaceutical industry are waging an unhealthy “war” over the precious serum, “more motivated by huge financial stakes than global health security.”
For weeks, Julie has been following the pandemic news from afar, forming more than skeptical opinions about the vaccine’s effectiveness and safety. Around him are discussions and debates on this issue, which casts doubt on the reliability of the product or the real motives of the main laboratories. “Many of my relatives were arguing against the ax, fumbling among themselves,” testifies a former teacher. Their words are always the same: “Covid is not serious, it is just the flu, there is not enough retrospective analysis of a vaccine to trust the pharmaceutical industry …” she lists. A pensioner who does not consider herself an “anti-virus on the base” finds some resonance in these arguments. “What scared me the most was the lack of understanding of how the vaccine works on the body,” she sums up.
But a few weeks later, pushed by her “vaccinated” daughter, Julie finally logs into the Vaccines France – Information and Discussion Facebook group, which analyzes, in particular, the arguments against the vaccine and tries to answer them with dozens of popular scientific articles and source material. “I came there without much hope and finally formed my own opinion,” the pensioner explains. Publications after publications, the former teacher “itches” under the arguments “against the ax”, about which she talked so much until then, reads “dozens of articles” about the production of the vaccine and its effects, studies the technology of using the RNA messenger. in particular the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. It’s a click. “I realized that this method was discovered in the 1960s, and that unknown or dangerous technologies were not serving us,” she recalls. “I then realized that all my fears should not be.” A few weeks later, she finally made an appointment with her husband for her first injection of Pfizer. “I went there without any fear,” she reassures.
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“It wasn’t for me”
Like Julie, many hesitant or skeptical French people seem to have changed their minds over the Covid-19 vaccination issue in a matter of months. According to the latest data released by the French Public Health, at the end of April, 55% of young people aged 18 to 24 said they wanted to get vaccinated, versus only 36% in mid-March. This intention also develops among people aged 25-34, 43% of whom now want to benefit from the injection, up from 39% a month ago. Overall, Public Health France points out that 56% of French people would agree “definitely” or “probably” to get vaccinated now, up from only 40% last December.
“I would never have believed it, but last Tuesday I was finally vaccinated,” says Micheline, who considers herself a former “skeptic” about the Covid vaccine. For decades, this former integration and probation adviser in the prison administration has fled drugs like the plague. First of all, the pensioner still followed the golden rule: “Until vaccines were mandatory, I didn’t want them,” she says. Therefore, in November last year, his reaction to the first announcements of the laboratories is not surprising. “For me it was not. I told myself that I will never get vaccinated, that I am stronger than Covid. ”
Weeks pass, but his opinion remains clear. Micheline is first of all convinced by one of her acquaintances, a researcher of the “movement for Raoul”: he extremely convincingly shares with her her opinion and her anti-Vax arguments. “This confirmed my vision. I began to wonder about the arguments against Big Pharma, to doubt the reliability of the product itself. ” But gradually a seventy-year-old begins to doubt. He doesn’t like “something” about anti-Vax. “The fact that everything is questioning in a very vicious way, without separating the truth from the lies, orienting their interviews and sometimes listing monsters … I told myself it was like a sect.”
Like Julie, Micheline then decided to sign up to checkout pages on social media sites like Vaxxeuses, where humor and pedagogy are combined with humor to counter the anti-Vax arguments. “One by one, they destroyed theories that I could believe in, and the information there seemed to me much more relevant and interesting,” she admits. The pensioner read many messages one after another asking about the dangers and benefits of the vaccine. In the end, she was convinced by an appointment with a doctor. “Fifteen days later, I agreed to be vaccinated,” she concludes.
“A click effect has occurred.”
“For some skeptics, sometimes simple local contact, different access to information, testimony from a relative or the advice of a family doctor are enough to change the situation,” says Tristan Mendes France, an associate professor at the University of Paris, a specialist. in digital cultures and conspiracy. According to the researcher, most of the “vacillating” do not belong to the very radical movement of “pure and hard” anti-Vax. “These are just ordinary citizens who, when they ask themselves certain questions about the vaccine, can face a huge amount of conflicting information about this,” he explains. “Once in the wrong contacts, they can easily adopt a more radical point of view.”
“Our goal is to get them to change their minds before it’s too late,” abounds Pascal, administrator of the Vaccines France – Info and Discussions Facebook group. Since the creation of her page, the user explains that she has mainly been in contact with citizens concerned about possible side effects of the vaccine, insufficiently informed about vaccination methods, or poorly informed about the various laboratories in charge of their unit. “They are doing more disinformation than conspiracy,” she says. “Taking his time” and going through numerous educational and scientific explanations, Pascal regularly claims to convince the “most cautious.”
So Lorian, the young leader of Lyonnaise, finally agreed to get the Covid shot last week after spending several hours analyzing the explanations of Pascal’s Facebook group. “And yet it wasn’t won,” she smiles. A young woman, five months pregnant, admits that she has “a lot of doubts” about the vaccine and its effectiveness. “I was afraid of how it might look in a few years, I was afraid of death, I was afraid that I would be injected with ultrachemistry,” she explains. Finally, various articles posted on social media are pushing her to make an appointment with a gynecologist who decides. “She told me that there was no doubt, and that if I got the virus while pregnant, the consequences could be dramatic,” says Lorian. “It also had a click effect for me.”
“It’s a small victory every time,” hails Pascal, who regularly claims to receive personal messages from former “repentant” skeptics who came to thank the group for its initiative. But the “real conspirators” or anti-tax activists never get involved with her. “They do not intend to change their minds, they do not even want to enter into a discussion,” the administrator regrets. “Once a conspiracy or anti-taxation system is in place, it is unlikely to be destroyed,” confirms Laurent-Henri Vignot, a research professor at the University of Burgundy and author of the book. Antivax: vaccine resistance from the 18th century to the present (Vendémiaire, 2019). “It takes a lot of time and a lot of effort: sometimes we are approaching the process that the former members of the sects must follow,” the specialist explains.
But, according to the researcher, don’t worry. “A lot of skeptics are melting like snow in the sun, and that’s to be expected,” he told L’Express convinced that many French people “hostile” to the vaccine would finally be convinced of the injection in a few months, especially in the skip event. health. “Then we will enter the“ hard core ”of the radical anti-virus, but there will be an extremely minority of them,” warns Laurent-Henri Vigneau, who estimates the proportion of radical conspirators who are confronted with the vaccine at “less than 5%” of the total. Population.
* Some names have been changed at the request of the respondents.
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