Italy and France see an increase in vaccinations despite resistance to Covid-19 health card
Shouting of “Freedom!” have reverberated through the streets and squares of Italy and France, as thousands protest plans to demand vaccination cards for normal social activities, such as dining indoors at restaurants, visiting museums or cheering at sports stadiums.
Leaders in both countries see the cards, dubbed the “Green Pass” in Italy and the “health pass” in France, as necessary to boost vaccination rates and convince the undecided.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi compared the anti-vaccination message of some political leaders to “a call to die”.
The looming demand is working, with vaccination requests in both countries.
Yet there are pockets of resistance from those who see it as a violation of civil liberties or who are concerned about vaccine safety. About 80,000 people protested in cities across Italy last weekend, while thousands have marched in Paris over the past three weekends, sometimes clashing with police.
European countries have made progress in their vaccination coverage in recent months, with or without incentives. No country has mandated the shots, and campaigns to convince the undecided are a patchwork quilt.
Denmark pioneered low-resistance vaccine passes. Belgium will need a vaccine certificate by mid-August to attend outdoor events with more than 1,500 people and indoors by September. Germany and Britain have so far resisted a blanket approach, while vaccinations are so popular in Spain that incentives are not deemed necessary.
Vast majority of those hospitalized are not vaccinated
In France and Italy, demonstrations against vaccine passes or virus restrictions generally bring together otherwise unlikely allies, often from the political extremes. Among them are far-right parties, economic justice advocates, families with small children, those who oppose vaccines and those who fear them.
Many say vaccination requirements are a source of inequality that will further divide society, drawing uneasy historical parallels.
“We are creating a great inequality between citizens,” said one protester in Verona, who identified himself as Simone only because he feared for his livelihood. “We will have first-class citizens, who will have access to public services, the theater, social life. , and second-class citizens, who can’t. This has led to apartheid and the Holocaust.”
Some protesters in Italy and France have worn yellow Stars of David, such as the Nazis had to wear Jews during World War II.
Holocaust survivors call the comparison a distortion of history.
“It is madness, gestures of bad taste that intersect with ignorance,” said Liliana Segre, a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor and Italian senator for life. is suppressed, which has matured for these distortions.”
Similar comparisons during protests in Britain have been widely condemned. One of the most prominent anti-lockdown activists, Piers Corbyn, brother of former Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, was arrested earlier this year after distributing a leaflet making the comparison, depicting the Auschwitz concentration camp.
The French health pass is required in museums, cinemas and tourist sites, and will come into effect for restaurants and trains on August 9. To get it, people must be fully vaccinated, have a recent negative test, or have proof that they have recently recovered from COVID-19.
Italy’s requirements are less strict. Only one vaccine dose is required and it will apply to outdoor dining, movie theaters, stadiums, museums and other meeting places from Aug. 6. A negative test within 48 hours or proof of recovery from the virus in the past six months also provide entry.
Vaccine demand in Italy rose by as much as 200% in some regions after the government announced the Green Pass, according to the country’s special commissioner for vaccinations.
In France, nearly 5 million received a first dose and more than 6 million received a second dose in the two weeks after President Emmanuel Macron announced the virus would be spread to restaurants and many other public places. Before that, vaccination demand had been declining for weeks.
A full 15% of Italians remain resistant to the vaccine message: 7% identify themselves as undecided and 8% as anti-vaccine, according to a survey by SWG. The survey of 800 adults, conducted from July 21-23, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
The biggest reasons for hesitating or refusing to get vaccinated, cited by more than half of respondents, are fears of serious side effects and concerns that the vaccines have not been adequately tested. Another 25% said they do not trust doctors, 12% said they are not afraid of the virus and 8% deny that it exists.
This leaves some hard-to-penetrate segments of the population.
About 2 million Italians over 60 remain unvaccinated, despite being given priority in the spring. In Lombardy alone, the epicenter of the Italian outbreak, thousands remain unprotected.
The city of Milan sends mobile vans carrying vaccines and other supplies to a different neighborhood every day. They reach the unwilling with flyers and social media posts, and vaccinate 100-150 people a day with the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Rosi De Filippis, 68, got the shot under pressure from a daughter.
“In any case, it has become a kind of mandatory,” says De Filippis. “In the beginning we didn’t know everything we know now. So I decided to continue.”
Companies in Italy and France are reluctantly accepting the passes, out of concerns about how private companies might enforce government policies. Denmark’s experience suggests that compliance becomes easier with time – and vaccination rates soar.
“The first few months were not good,” recalls Sune Helmgaard, whose Copenhagen restaurant serves hearty classic Danish dishes. In the spring, the vaccination rate was still low and customers were not always able to get themselves tested in time.
But with more than 80% of eligible Danes receiving at least one shot and more than 60% fully vaccinated, Helmgaard’s business is back to pre-pandemic levels.
“People feel safer,” he said, “so the Danes are quite happy to show their stride.”