The French Senate is to discuss the issue of Covid vaccine side-effects after a petition calling for an inquiry into the subject was lodged.
It comes despite the petition gathering only 33,000 signatures, far below the 100,000 needed to secure a debate in the Senate chamber.
The speed at which the petition, the third in recent weeks on the subject of vaccine side-effects, attracted signatures was said to be a factor.
The petition on the Senate e-petition website called for a senatorial inquiry commission on vaccination side-effects. It was opened on January 12 and has so far received 33,623 signatures.
Numerous claims cited by the petition author include a reminder that in December 2021, medical authority ANSM told the Senate that it “appeared worried” about the high number of reports of Covid-19 vaccine side-effects during a Senate hearing.
It also said that authorities such as the European Medicines Agency (EMA) are among the global agencies to have published reports of severe side effects.
Christelle Ratignier-Carbonneil, director of the ANSM, told the Senate in a hearing on December 1, 2021, that the increase in reports of treatment-related side-effects in France is “not at all abnormal” as it comes in the context of some 52 million people receiving a full vaccination schema. She did not at any stage mention being “worried” by the level of reports of side effects.
This appears to contradict the claims of the author of the petition.
The ANSM has stated that “since the start of the vaccination campaign, 80,775 cases of adverse events have been reported across Bordeaux, Marseille, Strasbourg and Toulouse. In total, more than 97,463,100 injections have been performed as of December 30, 2021”.
It added that “the majority of adverse events were to be expected and not serious”.
Additionally, the EMA states:
“More than 735 million doses of vaccines have been given to people in the EU and European Economic Area (EEA), as of early January 2022.
“The authorised COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. They were evaluated in tens of thousands of participants in clinical trials and have met EMA’s scientific standards for safety, efficacy and quality.
“The safety of COVID-19 vaccines is continuously monitored and evaluated.
“The vast majority of known side effects of COVID-19 vaccines are mild and short-lived. Serious safety problems are extremely rare.”
Online petition platform
The e-petition Senate website enables citizens to set up their own petitions, with parliament bound to debate them when they reach more than 100,000 signatures.
This recently happened with the case of Morgan Keane, the man who was killed by a hunter while in his own back garden. A petition calling for stricter regulations around hunting reached the 100,000 signature threshold and prompted the creation of a still-ongoing investigation and campaign.
The topic has been identified as being “in particular public interest”, reported Senate news site PublicSénat.
‘A calm examination of this subject’
The Conference of Presidents in the Senate said that the house would debate the topic “without delay”, and to “instruct the social affairs committee to determine the work to be carried out”.
However, rather than set up an inquiry commission, the committee has enlisted help from science and technology office, l'Opecst (l'Office parlementaire d'évaluation des choix scientifiques et technologiques).
Opecst is made up of 18 MPs, 18 Senators, and a scientific committee of 24.
Catherine Deroche, chair of the social affairs committee in the Senate, said they had chosen the Opecst route “due to its knowledge of the controversy [surrounding this subject] and its ability to include diverse parts of the scientific community, the Office seems to offer ideal conditions for a calm examination of this subject”.
The Senate also said that despite the petition not having reached 100,000 signatures, the speed at which it had gathered more than 33,000 supporters was also proof of its importance.
It also said it wanted to debate the issue sooner rather than later, so as not to have the topic suspended at the end of February due to the forthcoming presidential election.
A similar petition has also been launched in the UK and has so far gathered over 67,000 signatures.
The UK government responded to the petition on January 5, saying:
“The government commissioned a public inquiry into the pandemic and has no plans for a vaccine safety inquiry. Our surveillance strategy for COVID-19 vaccines provides continuous safety monitoring.”