Macron vaccine fiasco: President's threat of mandatory jab for health workers sparks fury


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The French President’s government said on Monday the level of COVID-19 vaccine uptake among those working in healthcare settings “is not acceptable” as only 40 percent of health workers have so far accepted the jab in France.

Gabriel Attal, the government spokesman, told Le Parisien newspaper: “For the last year our health workers have been heroic, but the vaccination rate among them today is not acceptable.”

He added: “It would be irresponsible to refuse to be vaccinated when one is a health worker… Everyone is rolling up their sleeves to get us out of this epidemic.

“Now they have to roll them up to the shoulder to get vaccinated.”

Mr Attal said the government will continue to encourage healthcare workers to come forward and get the jab but that making it mandatory “remains a possibility”.

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Emmanuel Macron is contemplating making vaccines mandatory for health workers (Image: GETTY)

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Emmanuel Macron criticised the AstraZeneca vaccine in January (Image: GETTY)

Last week, French Prime Minister Jean Castex revealed only 40 percent of health workers had been inoculated against coronavirus.

But the threat to make the jab mandatory was promptly lambasted by the leader of Les Patriotes Florian Philippot.

The French politician denounced the President’s attempts to make careworkers feel “guilty” about not taking the vaccines at a time the government has failed to provide the necessary funds and means for the health system to properly function during a pandemic.

He said: “Making caregivers feel guilty about the vaccine has all the advantages for power:

– make their demands inaudible (means, beds,…)

– remove processing from the equation. Freedom = vaccine

– if the obligation is imposed, the Health Pass will appear as the logical continuation …”

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He added: “To throw up all those policies that urge caregivers to be “united”(= get vaccinated) while it is they who have been putting them in danger for years by reducing their means, staffing, and closing beds!

“They sacked solidarity!”

France is one of the most vaccine-sceptic countries globally, though surveys have shown the proportion of the public intending to get inoculated increasing.

To make things worse, the French President’s criticism of the AstraZeneca vaccine earlier this year has increased reluctance among French residents to come forward and get jabbed.

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France: Only 40 percent of health workers have accepted the vaccine so far (Image: GETTY)

According to the most recent data made available by the French health ministry, for the end of February, France was using 24 percent of its AstraZeneca doses, compared with 82 percent for vaccines made by Pfizer/BioNTech and 37 percent for the Moderna shot.

That is partly due to logistical bottlenecks, but also because some French people don’t trust the AstraZeneca shot – despite multiple scientific studies that indicate it is safe and effective.

European regulators recommended it not be used for people over 65, citing a lack of data.

Mr Macron was quoted as saying the shot was “quasi-ineffective” and the French regulator called on hospitals to stagger inoculations of their staff after side effects led some frontline workers to call in sick.

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Coronavirus vaccine doses administered in the world as of March 8 (Image: EXPRESS)

Like other wealthy countries, France has made the AstraZeneca shot a pillar of its vaccine rollout. With all the big vaccine makers experiencing production problems, countries cannot afford for people to snub one of the shots.

A health ministry official and two doctors involved in the rollout said the uptake was accelerating as logistics improve and people get used to the AstraZeneca shot.

AstraZenaca doses were initially to be delivered to hospitals and vaccination centres for the inoculation of healthcare workers, and to general practitioners for the vaccination of 50 to 64-year-olds with pre-existing conditions.

In the first week of the AstraZenaca rollout, which coincided with the start of school holidays, GPs ordered fewer than half of their allocated doses.

The president of AstraZeneca France, Olivier Nataf, told the weekly Journal du Dimanche at the weekend that his company’s vaccine was entirely effective against severe COVID-19 infections and 80 percent effective in preventing hospitalisations.

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France: Florian Philippot blasted Macron’s threat to make vaccines mandatory (Image: GETTY)

He said: “Confusions and disappointments can arise. Many are already resolved.

“There may be others. But the enemy remains the pandemic. Any controversy diminishes our ability to overcome it.”

European regulators have concluded the side-effects caused by the AstraZenaca vaccine are not a cause to doubt its safety.

A study in Scotland covering 5.4 million people showed it, and the Pfizer vaccine, were highly effective in preventing severe infections.

France, Germany and Italy have changed tack and are now giving the vaccine to people over 65.

Macron said last month the AstraZeneca jab was effective, and he would take it if offered.



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