President Emmanuel Macron has re-stated his preference to convince people of the benefits of getting vaccinated against Covid-19, rather than make it obligatory.
“Our belief since the beginning of the crisis is that it is more effective to build on trust and conviction,” he said yesterday (May 28), while on a trip to Rwanda.
He has said repeatedly since November 2020 that his government would not make vaccination obligatory.
His latest comments come after the Académie nationale de médecine (ANM) called for the vaccines to be made mandatory to help the country achieve herd immunity, in a paper published May 25.
ANM wrote 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 herd immunity to control the epidemic”, the paper said.
Dr Marie-Paule Kieny, who is also the president of the Comité Scientifique sur les Vaccins Covid-19 and the director of research at French research institute Inserm, said recently (May 20) that she believed the country was on the right path to achieving herd immunity by the end of the summer.
Herd immunity is when a population is indirectly protected from an infectious disease due to the fact that a large enough percentage of the population is immune, either via vaccination or previous infection.
There are ongoing debates about what percentage of a population would need to be immune to Covid-19 before herd immunity is achieved, but most medical experts suggest somewhere between 80 to 90% to be certain.
France has currently given a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination to over one third of its entire population and a full dosage to nearly 17%.
Mr Macron did acknowledge yesterday that vaccines for other diseases have been made mandatory under his government, saying that for Covid-19 vaccines, “in theory, no door is closed”.
"We made, at the beginning of my mandate, several vaccines compulsory for our children, vaccines that were known, to try to completely eradicate the diseases that were concerned,” he said.
In 2018, eight additional vaccines were made obligatory for children in France, bringing the total to 11.
Included in the eight were vaccines against rubella, measles and hepatitis B.
Mr Macron spoke of this decision last week (May 21).
“It was a very big democratic debate in our country and we were dealing with vaccines that we knew by heart, we had decades of experience with them,” he said, adding that this was not the case with the Covid-19 vaccines.
“If we want the nation to return to normal life, we need as many people as possible to be vaccinated. But I respect everyone's opinion, that's why we haven't made it compulsory. I prefer to go by conviction,” he said.