Science

Two and a half years of Covid and 90 conclusions issued: lessons from the Academic Council

Little by little, the long masked face of Jean-Francois Delfressi began to enter the daily life of the French. From the first to the seventh wave of the epidemic (which continues today), he never ceased to prevent, warn, qualify and reassure. But after two and a half years of activity, Professor Delfrassy announced that he was leaving his post on July 31st. Together with him, the Academic Council is preparing to close its doors forever.

At the same time, France will also emerge from the health emergency, while the seventh wave of Covid-19 appears to be stagnating, even declining in recent days.

Since the beginning of the epidemic, 90 conclusions have been issued

Founded in mid-March 2020 at the request of Emmanuel Macron, it has provided the government and France with the latest scientific information on the evolution of the Covid-19 epidemic. In his opening remarks in March 2020, former Minister of Health Olivier Véran explained the desire he shared with the head of state to “innovate public decision-making” by setting up a scientific committee, emphasizing its necessary “flexibility, agility and sufficient responsiveness” operation.

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Since then, the scientists of the council have published about 90 conclusions or notes on the state of health in the country and possible means of combating epidemic waves. Among them are infectious disease specialists, epidemiologists, caregivers, or even specialists in the humanities (anthropologist, sociologist), reinforced after a few months by six other experts (geriatrician, veterinarian, child psychiatrist, etc.), between science, education and health management. “We have had many defeats and successes, sometimes a difficult relationship with politics. We have learned to be humble to say when we did not know it,” Prof. Jean-Francois Delfraissy summed up during the final virtual press conference this Thursday, July 21 .

“The fact that the members of the Scientific Council changed little or not at all along the way ensured continuity that guaranteed independent expertise,” epidemiologist Mircea Sofonja analyzes in Le Monde columns. It has managed to maintain the delicate balance between science and healthcare research and management while acting as a board for the scientific community.” However, patient associations have been critical on several occasions, blaming the council for never being represented there.

The executive branch did not always follow their recommendations or was delayed for certain periods. He also delayed the publication of his opinion several times. Moreover, the immunologist acknowledged that the Scientific Council is “probably” instrumental. “We, you [NDLR : les médias]by politicians.” In a few months, Jean-François Delfressis, rather cash and alarmist at the beginning of the pandemic, learned to make more subtle statements, in particular about vaccinations or the need to restrict the French.

The control committee must take over

With the dissolution of the Scientific Council on July 31, the “Health Risk Monitoring and Forecasting Committee” should take over issues related to the Covid-19 epidemic, but not only. The Ministry of Health confirmed to AFP on Thursday the establishment of a “standing advisory committee” to be established “in the coming weeks.” Its purpose will be to “provide a monitoring and forecasting role, as well as an advisory role when new health crises emerge.” It will be created on the same principles of “independence, transparency and flexibility” as the Scientific Council, to complement the existing agencies. As “risks develop”, “not only infectious, but also related to air, water and land quality, to the impact of climate change”, Minister of Health François Braun considers “it is necessary (…) to establish a standing committee composed of various scientific disciplines and following a One Health approach, “which considers human, animal and plant health together in a healthy environment,” the office told AFP.

But the government has yet to formalize the creation, a priori by its decree, and the composition of this body, subordinate to the ministers of health and science. It is possible that some members of the Academic Council are its members. Jean-Francois Delfracy has already announced his desire to permanently leave the board of directors. “I’ve only been thinking about Covid for 24 months, it’s time for a fresh vision, it’s time to surrender.”

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And before leaving for good, Professor Delfrassy made his final recommendations in his final opinion, published on Tuesday, July 19th. A 60-page memo titled “Living with options, the pandemic is not over yet.” “We have done some of the work, but there is still a lot to be done, the pandemic is not over yet,” he said at a press conference on Thursday.

The text reveals that the peak of wave BA.4/BA.5 is “on track to reach in France”, but fears of future “epidemic outbreaks associated with the emergence of new variants, more pronounced in the autumn-winter period. In the medium term, the body is proposing a “sequential adaptation of vaccines” in case the next waves turn out to be more severe. But in the shorter term, the board is developing three scenarios.

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Finally, the Scientific Council proposes ways to improve the relationship between political and scientific bodies, in particular by creating a high-level group of scientists to inform the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister about scientific developments, and this, regardless of crises. “Covid-19 has demonstrated the enormous value of information, advice or opinions based on the state of scientific knowledge for political decision making. Faced with this kind of collective challenge, science is not an option. This period also confirms that the scientific world and the world of political decision makers decisions, have not yet had sufficiently regular contacts,” conclude the authors of the final conclusion.

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Chronicle of Christoph Donner

Cinema.Christopher Donner

Chronicle of Christian Golier

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks at the opening of the Eurosatory arms exhibition in Villepinte, near Paris, June 13, 2022.Christian Gollier, Economist at the Toulouse School of Economics

Chronic

Abnuss Shalmani.Abnuss Shalmani

Chronic

Emmanuel Macron during a TV interview on July 14, 2022.Jean Francois Cope

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