President Emmanuel Macron has posted a series of video messages on social media networks Instagram and TikTok, inviting young people to ask him questions about the Covid-19 vaccines.
Video sharing platform TikTok is especially popular with teenagers and young people.
The president appeared in a black T-shirt and filmed the video “selfie-style” on his phone, with a French flag in the background.
He said: “I know that many of you are still wondering, are afraid; and many of you have heard false information, false rumours, sometimes complete rubbish. So I have decided to answer your questions directly. Go ahead, ask them and I will try to be as direct and as clear as possible.”
Mr Macron filmed the video from the presidential holiday home, the fort de Brégançon in Var.
The president said that “a race against the clock has started with the Delta variant, and the spread of the virus is stronger among young people”, who are less likely to be vaccinated than older generations.
Of nine million people aged 18-24 in France, just 3.5 million have had a vaccine so far.
Later in the day, Mr Macron filmed a second video, and then a third, on the subject of “fake news” and persistent myths about the vaccine. He concluded: “The vaccine saves lives, the virus kills.”
So far, the videos have attracted almost 12m views on TikTok, and more than 1.6m on Instagram.
The T-shirt that the president is wearing in the videos – a rare outfit for the leader, who is more often pictured in suits and shirts – has also intrigued viewers. The T-shirt has a distinctive white logo on one side, but few have managed to decode where it comes from.
Parlons de fond : c'est quoi le marque du tee shirt d'Emmanuel Macron ? pic.twitter.com/Da9jhTIBvM— Ivan Valerio (@ivalerio) August 2, 2021
One user wrote: “Does Macron want to give us the link to his T-shirt?”, and another said: “What’s the brand of T-shirt that Macron is wearing on his TikTok? Asking for a friend…”.
Others speculated that it could be a piece brought back from his recent trip to Tahiti, or suggested it could be a riff on the “owl” logo of the Bohemian Club, an all-male international politics, business and networking club set created in California.
Overnight, the internet site Laligneshop.com created a T-shirt in the same style for sale. It is now listed under the name “T-shirt Macron tiktok” at the price of €19.90.
The message comes days after the most recent protests against the health pass and vaccination requirements, which drew 200,000 people across the country on Saturday (July 31).
The Elysee said that over the same weekend, 530,000 people had a dose of a vaccine. A source close to the president said: “The link between the two is obvious.”
Another minister said: “This message was necessary, to make the distinction between legitimate doubts on vaccination, and unjustifiable violence [during protests].”
Senator François Patriat said: “Convincing young people could help to convince others who are reticent towards the vaccine.”
But the head of the Les Patriotes party, and co-organiser of protests in Paris, Florian Philippot, said that President Macron’s messages had missed the mark.
He said: “He thinks that people are protesting because they don’t understand. He is totally misunderstanding what is happening. We don’t care about his responses, we want him to listen to the people when it comes to all the questions being asked about the health pass.”
This is not the first time that President Macron has taken to the internet to share his message with young people. In spring last year he collaborated with the French YouTubers McFly and Carlito.