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French medics want obligatory Covid jabs for key workers and students

Obligatory vaccination, starting with front-line workers and at-risk people, is the only way to achieve herd immunity and fend off the virus long-term

A woman wearing a mask receives a vaccination. French medics want obligatory Covid jabs for key workers and students

Making the vaccine mandatory would "ensure sufficient collective immunity to control the epidemic", the ANM said Pic: Yuganov Konstantin | Shutterstock

Covid-19 vaccines should be mandatory for many people because lockdowns and physical distancing are “incapable” of keeping the pandemic at bay, a French medical authority has said.

In a paper published on May 25, the Académie nationale de médecine (ANM) said that it was “indispensable” to make the vaccine mandatory for people working in at-risk professions and for university students before they go back this autumn. 

This would be the only way to achieve “sufficient collective immunity to control the epidemic”, the paper said.

The ANM does not have the power to change policy, but it does regularly offer public medical advice on questions of public health and national ethical medical questions.

It said that “with a level of 90-95% effectiveness against severe forms of Covid, the vaccines currently being used in France fulfil the conditions that will allow us to impose mandatory vaccination”.

It said: “Individual (barrier gestures) and group measures (lockdowns, curfews), are incapable of controlling [the epidemic] in the long-term [as it is]...persistent, especially socially.”

Making the campaign obligatory would overcome the obstacle of those who are “hesitant or opposed to vaccination”, it said.

These categories make up an estimated 15% of the population.

Currently, this percentage means that without mandatory vaccination, it will “be very difficult to obtain vaccination coverage that would ensure sufficient collective immunity to control the epidemic, which would be 90% of the adult population, or 80% of the total population (children included)”, it said.

Gradual introduction

The ANM said that mandatory vaccination could only be imposed “gradually”, and that it would recommend starting with essential, front-line professions, such as teachers, health professionals, police, essential providers of food, water, and energy; and public workers.

People whose work puts them in contact with the public should also be prioritised, it said, including people who work in shops, restaurants, hotels, sports centres, and cultural sites. University students should also be concerned, it said.

Other proposed categories include those travelling internationally and people giving blood or taking thermal cures, as well as people taking part in club activities involving getting together in groups.


Vaccination for children and teenagers

The ANM also said that “vaccination against SARS-CoV-2 in adolescents and children should be envisaged as soon as the vaccine timetable allows for these age groups”, despite the fact that Covid-19 appears less serious for “young ages”.

This is because vaccinating younger people would help the population reach collective immunity faster, it said. 

Already in France, vaccinations against 11 illnesses are already mandatory for infants, including against diphtheria, tetanus, and tuberculosis.

Currently, all people aged 18 to 49 without health issues can only book next-day appointments to be vaccinated with spare doses. But from the end of May, all adults will be eligible for any vaccine appointment – two weeks ahead of the government’s initially-planned schedule (June 15).

The government has said it is aiming to have administered at least 30 million first injections by mid-June, after hitting its target of 20 million in mid-May.

Yet, France has always stopped short of suggesting that it will make vaccination mandatory, and has simply encouraged as many people to get the jab as possible, as soon as they are able.

France has not yet started vaccinations for minors under 18, but other countries, such as the US, have already started the rollout for children and teenagers.

The Moderna laboratory is currently seeking authorisation from the EU to approve its vaccine for 12-17 year-olds across the bloc.

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said it would be “ideal to start protecting [this age group] from the end of August. If we don’t vaccinate massively, the risk of a fourth wave cannot be ruled out.”

Related stories

Covid-19 will recede over summer in France - Institut Pasteur
Moderna to seek EU approval for Covid vaccines for teenagers
 'We are not yet safe from fourth wave' says French specialist 
Covid France: Vaccinations for all adults brought forward to May 31

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