A Covid-19 vaccine should be “mandatory” for all in France and Europe when it becomes available, a senior MEP has said, while hailing the news of a safe, successful vaccine trial as a “sign of hope”.
The comments from MEP Yannick Jadot, of eco party Europe Écologie-Les Verts (EELV), come one day after pharmaceutical groups Pfizer and BioNTech said that their vaccine appeared to be 90% effective against Covid-19 with very few side-effects, if any.
Mr Jadot said: “It [should be] mandatory. Look at the trauma that our society is living through. We cannot allow this period of lockdown and cultural, social and economic slump to be extended in our country.
“From the moment that the vaccine is here, I hope that everyone will go to get vaccinated.”
Yet, health authority la Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS) has not recommended that the vaccination be mandatory, neither for the population in general nor for healthcare workers.
Who will get the vaccine first?
When a vaccine becomes available in France (and the rest of Europe), it is likely to be offered to certain groups and professions first.
The HAS has published a report into its vaccination strategy, listing several possible scenarios. Those with priority access are likely to include:
- People at risk - People aged 65 and over, and those with chronic illnesses
- Healthcare workers - People working in the healthcare sector and with vulnerable people
- People living or working in groups - Those in hospitals, elderly care homes, prisons, communal accommodation, or people or work in enclosed spaces or the transport industry
- Priority workers - People who work to keep the country operating “optimally”, such as those in health and social work, security, defence, energy, food, education, and banking
- Potential contacts - People who are identified as contacts to confirmed cases of Covid-19
Could the vaccine be made mandatory?
Scientists have said that in order for the vaccine to be effective, around 60-70% of the population would need to have it. Yet, the French public has historically been resistant to vaccines.
A recent Ipsos poll for the World Economic Forum found that only 54% of the French public said they would get a vaccine when one becomes available.
This contrasts similar surveys in the US, where 64% say they would get the jab; along with Spain (64%); Italy (65%); Japan (69%); Germany (70%); and China (84%).
Yet, reticence in France has not stopped the government from making vaccines obligatory in the past - in 2018, it became obligatory to vaccinate infants with 11 jabs, up from the three that had been required before.
The government has never made a vaccination mandatory for adults, however.
Elsewhere, this has happened very infrequently - and only in Switzerland, and in New York, US, according to historian Laurent-Henri Vignaud, speaking to newspaper Le Parisien.
A mandatory vaccine could be imposed “constitutionally”, according to French law.
This would have to be examined by the cabinet and would need to be discussed and then approved in Parliament.
So far, however, the government has not shown signs of making the vaccine mandatory, perhaps fearful of a public backlash.
Despite this, Mr Jadot said that he has “no doubt” that the public will be willing to be vaccinated.
He said: “Given what we are living through, the small businesses that are dying, the older people in our families who are panicked at the idea of leaving the house, to see their grandchildren...I hope that everyone will go to participate at once, while respecting the rules.
“The vaccine is not yet here, so we must not stop in our efforts, but when the vaccine is here, we must go to get vaccinated.”
He added: “There is finally hope.”
Pfizer and BioNTech are now set to request authorisation for use of their vaccine in the US from November. They have said they aim to provide 100 million doses across the world by the end of 2020, and 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021.
Mr Jadot has also called for cross-European cooperation for the vaccine, especially for the “poorer” states, saying: “We must absolutely find a way to vaccinate the majority of the European population. I hope that the international cooperation that we have seen around the vaccine will also ensure that it is not simply the rich countries that will be able to get vaccinated.”
President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, this week tweeted: “The European Commission will soon sign a contract with [the companies] for 300 million doses.”
Today’s meeting of the College of commissioners focuses on:— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) November 11, 2020
▫️Authorising a contract with BioNTech-Pfizer to secure a COVID-19 vaccine
▫️Proposals to set up a European #HealthUnion
▫️The 1st ever EU Equality Strategy for #LGBTQI people
▫️A new Agenda to protect consumers pic.twitter.com/FHKW8RfRBn