Faced with the prospect of massive protests triggered by a bill tabled on Monday which, if passed, would effectively give the state the power to impose a compulsory COVID-19 vaccinations on the population, Minister of Health Olivier Véran has temporarily sidelined the project. The bill, which was presented by French Prime Minister Jean Castex in front of the Council of Ministers on Dec. 25, proposed that citizens be mandated to either provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test or present an up to date vaccination certificate in order to use the country’s extensive public transport network, Le Figaro reports . According to Gabriel Attal, a spokesman for the government, the proposed legislation was meant to “prepare for the end of the health emergency on April 1, 2021” and to “establish a sustainable legal framework to deal with the health crisis”.
Per the controversial draft of legislation, “the Prime Minister may […] subordinate the movements of people, their access to means of transport or to certain places, as well as the exercise of certain activities to the presentation of the results of a screening test establishing that the person is not affected or contaminated, following preventive treatment, including the administration of a vaccine, or curative treatment.” The French are opposed to mass vaccination Facing intense backlash from opposition parties, Minister of Health Olivier Véran decided to scrap the bill for the time being. President of France’s right-wing populist party National Rally Marine Le Pen, when speaking about the freshly scrapped piece of legislation, said that there should be absolutely no “second-class citizenship for unvaccinated individuals — it is deeply deleterious and liberticidal”. Le Pen has deemed state measures that would require citizens to receive vaccinations as “essentially totalitarian”. Spokesman for National Rally Sébastien Chenu told France 2 that the idea of compulsory vaccinations was “very dangerous”, and that if imposed on the population, would be akin to a “health dictatorship”. “That the government considers that the prime minister alone has fundamental freedoms is very worrying. No good intention justifies such a decision. In the event of a health crisis, the implementation of custodial measures must remain the exclusive competence of parliament,” said Bruno Retailleau, the president of the Les Republicains Senate group. Guillaume Peltier, vice-president of the center-right establishment party Les Républicains, expressed his disdain for the proposed law in a tweet, saying: “What is Emmanuel Macron hiding? I naively believed that in our homeland, respect for freedoms was the rule and its restrictions the exception. In this case, the executive would have all the power to suspend our freedoms without parliamentary control? Inconceivable.” According to a recent survey from Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper, only 41 percent of French said they planned to get vaccinated.
Another survey from IFO found that a strong majority of 59 percent of French people surveyed say they would not get vaccinated. A CGT General Confederation of Labour worker holds a placard against mandatory vaccinations in protest against Macron’s string of reforms in 2018. France is generally considered to be one of the most vaccine-skeptical nations in the world. Widespread protests broke out in 2018 following Macron’s government issuing a mandate that would punish parents for refusing to vaccinate their children by cutting off their access to daycare and other services. The French aren’t the only skeptics Skepticism of the new COVID-19 vaccine is widespread. For example, 44 percent of Poles said in a recent survey they would not want to take the vaccination, with many of them citing the rushed development and a lack of long-term testing as reasons they would refuse to take it. President Donald Trump authorized an expedited version of the vaccine with the goal to get a working vaccine produced within a year. Skeptical media outlets claimed it was not likely possible to do it, and papers such as the New York Times warned that a rushed vaccine could be dangerous , including in Op-Eds the paper published. In the Times, Rick Perlstein wrote : “Last week, news arrived that President Trump had lurched into what may be his most reckless obsession yet: His administration would probably seek an ’emergency use authorization’ for a Covid-19 vaccine long before some scientists believe it would be safe to do so…The president’s desperate words betray a gamble: Yes, rushing out a vaccine in an emergency may save lives, but it can also jeopardize safety, further erode public confidence in vaccines — and possibly kill.” The Times also criticized the rushed roll-out of Russia’s vaccine and questioned a potential DNA-based vaccine, writing that “no DNA-based vaccine has ever made it to market. While some have produced encouraging results in small animals, they have not proven effective in humans — against the coronavirus or any other disease.” The mumps vaccine, produced decades ago, is generally considered the fastest-developed vaccine brought to market, which took four years to develop. In contrast, the coronavirus vaccine was produced in months. Despite the fast roll-out, top medical authorities have approved the use of Pfizer’s vaccine across the world. The vaccine has not been tested for long-term complications on a range of issues, but university researchers have begun examining the issue, including its potential effect on male fertility .