French health workers are hesitant to get the vaccine

France is in heated debate over whether healthcare workers should be vaccinated against Covid-19. While the government is deliberating, Jowharspoke to health care providers about their unwillingness to be vaccinated.

Should France require its health care providers to be vaccinated against Covid-19? Ninety-four doctors — including department heads who became media celebrities during the pandemic — have called on the government to pass a law requiring nursing home and hospital workers to “expose, or expose those in their care to, the risk of infection” with Covid-19. In a July 4 opinion piece in the Journal du Dimanche weekly, doctors called for mandatory vaccines in early September to prevent “a fourth wave” of the pandemic in light of the rapid progression of the highly contagious Delta. variant.

While Prime Minister Jean Castex has held meetings with MPs and local elected officials to discuss drafting a bill, Health Minister Olivier Véran expressed support for the measure.

“Asking a caregiver to get vaccinated is not finger pointing,” he said Sunday evening. “It just asks them to carry through their commitment.”

Fear of side effects

According to the French Hospital Federation, only 57% of caregivers in nursing homes and 64% of hospital staff have so far been vaccinated in France. With the risk of a fourth wave looming, pressure is mounting for all healthcare professionals to get the jab. But many remain reluctant, sharing their concerns in anti-vaccination Facebook groups and on social media using the hashtag #JeNeMeVaccineraiPas (or #NotGettingVaccinated).

Sylvie, a nurse at a retirement home, has refused for fear of possible side effects. “I don’t trust their gene therapy. The vaccine has not been looked back enough. It is still experimental and humans are being used as guinea pigs. It’s toxic to me,” she told FRANCE 24.

Martin, a psychiatric nurse, shares these fears. “We cannot be sure that there will be no side effects in the medium and long term,” he said. “The vaccinations should only be for those at risk, such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions,” he said, stressing that he was not anti-vaccine in general and aware of all his other injections. Half of his colleagues shared this view, he said, and the issue has become controversial: “What will happen to those who refuse, even if they have to?” he asked, saying that such a law “could lead to a wave of resignations”.

Anita, an assistant nurse in a gastroenterology and palliative care unit, asked herself the same questions. “I wondered how there could be a vaccine that was effective and safe in such a short time,” she said. “We had no information about what was going on with regard to the disease, the vaccines, the treatments… It was completely different during the H1N1 epidemic, where there was a lot more information and more safety measures in place.”

After some thought, Anita changed her mind and got vaccinated. “When you work in a department like mine, there is traffic, people come and go, there is always the risk of contact with a patient who has the virus. I didn’t want to infect my family or get sick,” she said. “I also thought to myself that it was not possible for them to inject the world’s population with a vaccine that was potentially very dangerous.”

Some vaccines are already mandatory

Unions have answered questions from concerned healthcare professionals. “What we hear most often is that there is not enough long-term perspective on the side effects of the vaccine. Professionals tell us that clinical trial phases are typically much longer than what we’ve seen here,” said Daniel Gillerm, president of the National Federation of Nurses.

The federation favors mandatory vaccination for health care providers and has taken an educational approach to reassure those who are still wary.

“We have studies today showing that vaccination not only protects the individual, but also reduces the risk of transmissibility. It therefore makes sense to include the Covid vaccine in the required vaccination schedule for all healthcare providers,” said Guillerm.

Caregivers in hospitals and nursing homes are already required to be vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus, polio and hepatitis B. A flu shot was added to this list in 2005, but was removed in 2006 after France’s High Council of Public Hygiene issued a report. noted that “it could meet opposition from health professionals”.

Italy passed a law in April requiring health care providers to be vaccinated against Covid-19 – those who fail to follow the rules and who are in contact with the public will be transferred to other units or suspended without payment if no other function is available. Less than 3% of workers in Italy’s health sector have refused to be vaccinated against Covid-19, but 300 of them have taken legal action to lift the requirement. An appeal to the Administrative Court of Brescia will be heard on July 14.

In France, senators from the conservative party Les Républicains and centrists introduced a bill in April to mandate the vaccination of health care providers. According to a July 1 Odoxa-Backbone Consulting study for the French daily newspapers Le Figaro and France Info, 72% of French people support the measure and a majority (58%) approve a mandatory vaccination for the entire population.

This article has been translated from the original into French.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More