Covid-19 in France

French National Medical Academy calls for mandatory Covid vaccination

A nurse administers a Covid-19 vaccine in La Baule, France. The French National academy of medicine would like the vaccine to become compulsory for everyone in France to achieve herd immunity.
A nurse administers a Covid-19 vaccine in La Baule, France. The French National academy of medicine would like the vaccine to become compulsory for everyone in France to achieve herd immunity. © Stephane Mahe/Reuters

France’s National academy of medicine recommends making the Covid-19 vaccine compulsory for a range of professions in order to reach enough of a herd immunity in France to protect against increasingly contagious variants.

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Vaccinating essential workers, along with children and adolescents, is the only way to achieve “enough of a collective immunity to control the pandemic” the Academy wrote this week in a statement entitled "'Obligation' is not a bad word".

Measures like wearing masks and confinements will be "insufficient" to control the spread of the virus over the long term, says the Academy, and they are “overwhelming, in particular socially”.

In order to achieve herd immunity, 90 per cent of the adult population, or 80 per cent of the entire population, including children, must be vaccinated.

The idea of making the Covid-19 vaccination compulsory is not new, but now that there are enough vaccinations to go around in France, it is feasible, and necessary in the face of vaccine sceptics.

“We believe there are a certain number of people who are reticent, up to 30 per cent of the population. And 70 per cent immunity is not enough in the face of new variants,” Christine Rouzioux, a professor of virology at Paris-Descartes university, and a member of the National academy of medicine, told RFI.

Compulsory vaccination would help France avoid a fourth wave of the virus in the autumn.

The Academy recommends a progressive approach, starting with so-called 'essential' workers, like teachers, public employees and healthcare providers.

Reticence

“A certain number of health workers do not want to get vaccinated, notably workers in care homes,” said Rouzioux, who notes outbreaks of the virus in retirement homes where all the residents have been vaccinated.

Other professions in contact with the public, like supermarket employees, hotel workers and those working in sports and cultural institutions, should be required to get vaccinated, as should university students.

“Imposing it on students would assure a normal university school year,” said Rouzioux. “It is true that young people have trouble understanding the need to vaccinate, as they get less sick than older people. I understand it. But the virus circulates among young people and adolescents. As long as the vaccine is largely accessible, we should take advantage of it rather than act against it.”

The government for now has ruled out making the vaccine compulsory.

France has notoriously notoriously high vaccine scepticism, though generally high vaccination because many are compulsory. Since 2018 children must be vaccinated against 11 illnesses, including polio and measles, in order to start school.

For Rouzioux, making the Covid-19 vaccine compulsory would make public health sense.

“There are mandatory vaccines. It’s a decision to protect the population. It’s not a privation of liberty,” she said. “Vaccinations are individual and collective protections.”

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