Covid: Can the French be convinced to get vaccinated?

As polls show increasing resistance to Covid vaccination among people in France, researchers believe it is possible to change minds

11 December 2020
Two vials of Covid vaccine. Covid France: Can people be convinced to get vaccine?France is aiming to make Covid vaccination available to the wider public from April 2021, for those who want it
By Joanna York

A new study from Ifop shows the amount of people in France who now say they will not get a Covid-vaccination has risen to 61%.

Poll results from the end of October put this figure at 46%, which then rose to 59%, according to a second poll from the end of November.

The latest results were released on December 3, commissioned by news sources CNEWS and Sud Radio. Out of the 61% that were against vaccination, 28% said they would “definitely” not get vaccinated, and 33% said they would “probably” not get the vaccine. 

Read more: Covid anti-vax sentiment rises above 50% in France 

Researcher believes most will get vaccine

Despite what seems to be rising rejection, Coralie Chevallier, a researcher in cognitive science at public research centre Inserm, believes that more people will have the Covid vaccine than the polls indicate.

She told newspaper Le Figaro that part of the problem is the way that figures are being interpreted. “We speak a lot about anti-vaxxers but, in reality, there are not many of them. The vast majority will accept vaccination, even if they have initial worries.”

Ms Chevallier estimated that anti-vaxxers make up just 2% of the population. She said counting people who wanted to wait before being vaccinated, 75% of people in France were actually in favour of the vaccine.

In addition, she said positive messaging could encourage more confidence in the vaccination process. This could include measures such as giving a louder voice to people who are pro-vaccine, or showing photos of older people who have been vaccinated smiling. “That is also a reality,” Ms Chevallier said. 

 

Logistics, transparency and encouraging altruism

The main motivation among those who want to get vaccinated is “altruism, in terms of protecting the health system but also regarding the dangers of the virus, and the regret each of us will feel if we fall sick or contaminate others”, Ms Chevallier added. 

Group mentality also plays a role, meaning that asking people who have been vaccinated to wear ribbons or badges could encourage others to follow in their footsteps. 

Transparency and logistics are also significant to the success of the vaccine. Ms Chevalier said that implementing automated vaccine appointments or an SMS booking system could help remove obstacles that prevent people getting vaccinated, as could more clarity from authorities.

She said: “We need to explain what we know and what we do not know about the benefits and secondary effects of each vaccine and also the risks, known and unknown, of the illness. Then everyone can make a choice based on their own evaluation of the risks and benefits.”

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