In total, 7.8% of people eligible for vaccination have not received the slightest dose of coronavirus vaccine in France, according to the Covidtracker site. While France turns on average to 250,000 cases per day, this minority is, in the middle of the fifth wave, accused of largely contributing to the saturation of hospitals. And every day, the words against the unvaccinated are more virulent. In a forum, caregivers thus called not to resuscitate them, when a major part of the population would be, according to an Ifop survey, in favor of their not being taken care of. As for Emmanuel Macron, he said last week that he “wanted to piss them off”. A “violent” and counterproductive controversy, according to Hélène Rossinot. For 20 Minutes, the public health doctor returns to the sensitive issue of non-vaccination which, in recent days, has taken a new turn, that of “deleterious and harmful debate”.
In France, the vaccine is free and available in large quantities. However, is there an inequality when it comes to vaccination?
Free does not create equity. People in great precariousness, for example migrants or homeless people, are totally excluded from the health care system, whether it is free or not. For these people, it is important to continue a policy of “going towards” [avec des maraudes] and get the vaccine directly to them. It should also be understood that the issue of vaccination is not at all a priority for the most precarious classes, unlike the difficulty of the work, complicated schedules, etc. There is also a social precariousness, a significant isolation of part of the population. As for the healthcare network, it is not fair across the country and the French vaccination campaign relies heavily on the Internet, which may be completely anachronistic for some people. Finally, we must think about the inequality of access to information or science. Still, we cannot put all the unvaccinated in these boxes, many are very educated and informed. Many are in a voluntary dynamic of alternative medicine or relationship to nature, and are therefore against vaccination.
Ain’t it easy to put de facto “Unvaccinated” and “antivax” in the same bag? In other words, are the unvaccinated really antivax?
This assimilation is indeed much too simplistic and it is never a good idea to generalize, a fortiori in an already tense social climate. There are indeed real antivax, which we find in the circle of alternative medicines or naturopaths, for example, and which are against ALL vaccines. But there are those who just reject the Covid vaccine. A vaccine that has been very politicized. In this circle, we find political opponents, activists of certain radical parties and anti-systems. Finally, there are those unvaccinated people who feel that they are not at risk for the disease and who are convinced that they do not need a vaccine. There remain the victims of disinformation, the most numerous. These are the unvaccinated who are afraid of side effects
You mention an overly politicized anti-Covid vaccine …
Yes, particularly in France because of the upcoming presidential election. We saw it in Germany: the country found itself paralyzed on the issue of health measures before its elections. In France, during the first months of the coronavirus epidemic, sacred union and political silence have given way to science. It was beneficial but very quickly crumbled. Today, the politicians of all the parties express their point of view on the crisis and this, with a logic much more political than health.
Emmanuel Macron speaks of “pissing off the unvaccinated”, in the forums of caregivers calling for no longer necessarily to resuscitate them, and so on. The discourse against the unvaccinated becomes extreme …
We must beware of all extremes. Everyone is on edge. After two years of an unprecedented situation, people can no longer take it, the caregivers are exhausted, the debates are tense. As a caregiver, you receive dozens or even hundreds of death threats and there is a strong temptation to react with the same violence. But we must avoid jumping by our throats and not participate in a deleterious and harmful debate. And above all not to further divide society.
Behind Emmanuel Macron’s words, there is the desire to push for vaccination. A strategy that has worked for the health pass, with first-time injection records after the announcement of its creation …
Obviously, the health pass – and soon vaccine – works on people who did not see the usefulness of the vaccine or thought little concerned by the vaccination, because it gave the vaccine an importance and a usefulness. But these measures target even more antivax or those who are afraid of the vaccine and who are ready to give up their social life if they are forced to do so. This can reinforce an already dangerous divide and further isolate the unvaccinated. The pass remains a good solution to access a mass vaccination, but it will still hit a glass ceiling if it is seen as a punishment and will be unproductive in the long term.
More than the unvaccinated, shouldn’t we “piss off” disinformers and those who spread “fake news”?
Those who have deliberately distilled fear are more responsible than the unvaccinated in general. The unvaccinated are more often the victims than the culprits. Freedom of information exists, and that’s a good thing, so it’s difficult to directly punish disinformers. Failing to silence them, there are however ways to make them a little less harmful. We can avoid giving them political weight by visiting them, hearing them or inviting them to the TV shows. The media have to sort out their guests and journalists should work more on their subject in order to be able to take back disinformers who deliver scientific misconceptions. As for us, the caregivers, we are very far from being innocent. There is a hell of a lot of doctors, beyond the misinformers of the trays, who tell “fake news” to their patients. The Order of Physicians has not properly played its role of regularly and correctly informing doctors or has not punished enough caregivers who have blithely trampled on our ethics. There have been a lot of complaints but, at the moment, extremely little radiation.
Prime Minister Jean Castex had announced that we could not be contaminated with two doses, which is false. By making these kinds of mistakes, didn’t the executive also give credit to the antivax?
Politicians have touted the vaccine as the silver bullet. Ditto with confinements and epidemic waves: politicians have each time hoped or publicly promised that it was the last time. It wasn’t necessarily a lie, but over-confidence. Here too we must do our MEA culpa. Journalists, doctors and politicians have all lacked caution when delivering information. It must nevertheless be recognized that the politicians are the ones who took the longest to adopt a more nuanced discourse.
There is a hell of a lot of doctors, beyond the misinformers of the trays, who tell “fake news” to their patients.
We must mention here the need for science education. We collectively have a hard time admitting not knowing or seeing information evolving. When doctors or journalists express a point of view and then the other way around a few months later, it is not necessarily that they have changed their mind but that the data has changed. The pandemic remains a new fact, it must be accepted. And also accept that we advance by groping. All the more reason for politicians to use the conditional, when the crisis has only worsened the distrust of the population towards the authorities, whether political or health.
The third dose has raised a lot of skepticism, especially among young people, and the executive is already talking about a fourth dose … Could those who are convinced of vaccination get bored and rally the unvaccinated?
It’s possible. The two doses had already been sold too much as the miracle solution that would solve all the problems. And, after two years of crisis, patience is crumbling. It will therefore be necessary to show a lot of pedagogy if we ask for an additional dose of vaccine. Both politicians and health authorities would benefit from redoing question-and-answer sessions to explain why it would be necessary. Not to mention that the prolongation of the crisis could further erode the confidence and support of the French. If “all compulsion” remains the only policy, we run the risk of creating a new branch of unvaccinated people. The fact remains that the crisis is not over and that we cannot afford to lose other people.