France calls health staff to get Covid jab as ‘ethical duty’

The open letter to healthcare staff comes as figures show just one in three workers has had a jab so far - as France works to speed up its vaccine rollout

7 March 2021
A healthcare worker. France calls health staff to get Covid jab as ‘ethical duty’Just one in three healthcare workers in France has had the vaccine, with authorities now calling for them to have it as an "ethical duty"
By Hannah Thompson

Health authorities in France are calling on all healthcare workers to get their Covid-19 vaccine, saying it is their “ethical duty” to do so, as figures show that just one in three has had the jab so far.

In an open letter published in newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche (JDD), seven authorities have joined together to call “in one voice” for all healthcare workers in all professional settings to have the vaccine, to help “slow the spread of the epidemic”.

The groups - including authorities of GPs, dentists, pharmacists, midwives, physiotherapists, chiropodists-podiatrists and nurses - write: “Only 40% of elderly care home workers and 30% of carers in hospital establishments and town surgeries have had at least one dose of the vaccine so far.

“This is much too few.”

It continues: “[Healthcare workers] are the most-exposed to the virus, and are in contact with the most fragile members of society.”

These carers must be vaccinated “because this is their ethical duty, to protect their patients in all circumstances, and because it is imperative that they can protect themselves too, against the virus, as well as their loved ones, to slow the spread of the epidemic”, the letter reads.

It comes after Health Minister Olivier Véran also called on Friday for all healthcare workers to be vaccinated “rapidly” in the name of “collective safety”.

Just one day earlier than the open letter was published, on Saturday March 6, doctor authority l’Ordre des médecins had already said that getting a Covid vaccination was “an ethical requirement” for carers, and that they had a “duty to set an example”.

Professor Alain Fischer, immunologist in charge of the government’s vaccination campaign, told the JDD: “We must do everything we can to convince young healthcare workers who don’t necessarily feel in danger themselves, that they must protect themselves, and that they are probably protecting their patients by getting vaccinated.

“Only one-third of workers being vaccinated is not acceptable.”

He said that making vaccination “obligatory” for these groups would be a “last resort”, but said that while “we must allow some time for them to be convinced [themselves], we cannot leave it too long”.


France rollout speeding up, says minister

The advice comes as France continues to work to speed up its vaccination rollout.

On Saturday March 6, the health minister tweeted that 250,000 people were vaccinated during the day - more than twice the number vaccinated on the previous Saturday.

Mass vaccination campaigns have been set up at an accelerated speed in areas in which new variants of the virus are spreading fast.

Read more: How France plans to speed up Covid vaccination rollout

This includes Ile-de-France, where more than 100 centres were opened this weekend, to administer 50,000 doses; and new sites in Pas-de-Calais, to administer 10,000 doses. 

Four military hospitals have also been requisitioned to help with the effort, in Metz, Toulon, Saint-Mandé (Val-de-Marne) and Villenave-d'Ornon (Gironde).

Weekend lockdowns are in place in Nice, Dunkirk, and Pas-de-Calais; and 23 departments are now on heightened alert, with non-food commercial centres of more than 10,000m2 (rather than the previous 20,000m2 limit) now closed.

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