Covid: Compulsory vaccination is back in discussions

In the face of strong COVID recovery and the arrival of the Omicron variant, should vaccination be mandatory? Several countries, including Germany, are considering this measure, which has long been considered excessive and is still far from unanimous for both ethical and practical reasons.

“There must be a discussion (…)” about compulsory vaccination in the European Union, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said on Wednesday.

These words represent a turning point. Since the arrival of vaccines against Covid nearly a year ago, very few countries, including Indonesia and Turkmenistan, have chosen to impose them without reservation on their populations.

Many, like France, have preferred to implement the Health Permit, an already restrictive measure that requires vaccinating or testing negative for COVID to get to places as different as restaurants. Another restriction is often kept, which is the compulsory vaccination of certain categories such as caregivers.

But in recent days, several countries, especially European, have announced their intention to take the step of explicit and comprehensive commitment. This is the case for Austria, from early 2022, and Germany, where the measure is in the program of the future government.

“A lot of people haven’t been vaccinated,” Social Democrat Olaf Schultz, who will succeed Angela Merkel next week, yet opposes compulsory vaccination during the election campaign, said on Tuesday.

What changed the situation? The arrival of a new wave of particularly strong infection in Europe, which first hit the countries of the East, spread to Germany and Austria, and then now affected other countries such as France and France.

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Countries are also concerned about the arrival of the Omicron variant, identified a few days ago and whose genetic profile raises fears of stronger immunity, even if the true infection remains a mystery.

In South Africa, where this alternative was identified, discussions were also lively about compulsory vaccination, which President Cyril Ramaphosa envisioned once again after holding opposing positions for so long.

These different countries, however, have contrasting vaccination statuses. Three-quarters of the South African population is not vaccinated, while less than a third of Germans are vaccinated.

But is the German option justified to convince another rebel? The question arises more in a country like France, where vaccinators represent only a quarter of the population and a tenth of those eligible.

But that prospect is currently unconvincing neither the government – the health minister, Olivier Veran, said on Wednesday in favor of a “no commitment if possible” strategy – nor the scientific authorities.

“The vast majority of major democracies have not entered into the obligation to vaccinate,” Jean-Francois Delfraissy, head of the Scientific Council, which is responsible for helping the French government cope with the health crisis, said on Wednesday.

Professor Delphriesi, who was speaking to the MPs, expressed his strong skepticism for reasons of principle as well as for reasons of practicality.

In the introduction, he asked himself, “Of course health (…) is an essential element, but should we all be deprived of a certain form of freedom?”

On the second level, “How do we control it?” asked Professor Delfraisi, stressing the condition of the unvaccinated elderly, who are most at risk of contracting severe forms of COVID-19.

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“When you have your little grandmother telling you that she doesn’t want to be vaccinated (…), do you think we’ll send the gendarmes?” , insisted.

However, in France, compulsory vaccination is on the way to becoming a reality in an area so far from the capital, New Caledonia, that it should come into effect on January 1, 2022.

Here again, however, the question of how to apply it already arises. Except for certain categories – caregivers, teachers, people at risk of serious injury… – there is no expected fine.

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