One more obstacle in the fight against Covid-19.

In a study published on Tuesday, October 20, in the journal Nature Medicine, 41.11% of French people questioned say that they would be reluctant or would refuse to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

A rejection which is not a surprise, and which remains, on the contrary, based on "legitimate concerns", believes Lucie Guimier, geographer specializing in public health and author of a thesis on the geopolitical issues of vaccine resistance .


France 24: Do the results of this study surprise you?

Lucie Guimier:

These results are not surprising.

However, it would be wrong to categorize these respondents as "anti-vaccines" because it is a vaccine still being manufactured and for which we will have little perspective.

Usually, the development of a vaccine takes about ten years before it hits the market.

These are therefore legitimate concerns.

A wave of mistrust of a Covid-19 vaccine is something to be expected. 

Even if we are in a context of a pandemic, laboratories should especially not rush into marketing a vaccine that has not been sufficiently studied or that would generate undesirable effects on part of the population.

This would only add a crisis to the one we are already undergoing and generate even more mistrust of the authorities. 

The reaction of the French to the vaccine will also depend on how the state will manage and communicate on this campaign.

Many questions still remain unanswered: how will these vaccines be made available to the population?

Who will be included in the debates?

Will the stocks be sufficient?

How can we gain the confidence of the population on the issue of vaccination?

To limit this mistrust, it would be necessary in my opinion, already include in the debates all the health professionals, that is to say the doctors, nurses and midwives, because these professions inspire confidence in the patients.

Much more than the representatives of the State.

If we do not manage to include them in this vaccination campaign and listen to them, it will be difficult to sensitize the population.

Could greater transparency on health policies also play a role?

Health researchers have been hammering it for years that more transparency is needed.

You shouldn't hide behind simplistic arguments or that paternalistic tone by just saying 'get vaccinated'.

And even if Santé Publique France is already doing a lot of popularization efforts, the issue is not simple. 

Because faced with people who refuse to be vaccinated, the more we will argue, the more they will say to themselves that this justification hides interests for the State, that everything is put at the service of a collusion between pharmaceutical companies and the political world, etc. .

We therefore know that the minority of anti-vaccines will be very difficult to convince, the awareness-raising work must especially reach the hesitant.

Is mistrust of vaccines more present in France than elsewhere?

Not necessarily.

The history of vaccinations has always been marked by protest movements, but each country has its own particularity which depends on the historical context and on the ideology underlying health systems.

For example, China's view on public health issues is not the same as that of Latin countries.

China [whose vaccine adhesion rate exceeds 80%, according to the study, Editor's note] is a state with a communist tradition where there is a real culture of public health.

Vaccination policies are practiced there, without major reluctance.

On the other hand, one of the peculiarities of France could be that in terms of health, we expect a lot from the state, while being very critical of it when it intervenes.  

In terms of vaccines, France has also had specific experiences.

Many still keep in mind the example of the winter of 2009-2010 when the H1N1 flu vaccination campaign was carried out in extremely rapid conditions.

About sixty cases of narcolepsy had been identified in the territory, which is not nothing.

Obviously, these undesirable effects marked the spirits.

But if the discourse of anti-vaccines is very audible and has even gained strength with the anti-mask movements that have developed, their impact remains limited in France.

You only have to look at the current shortage of influenza vaccine in pharmacies to see it. 

Does compulsory vaccination seem a legitimate option to you?

Going through a compulsory vaccination against Covid-19 seems very difficult to me.

The state would meet with enormous opposition.

We saw it in 2018 when the government extended the list of mandatory vaccines for children.

This news had been received by some with great suspicion.

So if this should apply for the whole population ...

When we see that some are already showing reluctance to wear a mask, imposing compulsory vaccination, which is a more intrusive device, seems to me even more complicated.

And even in the event that the state wants everyone to get vaccinated, the question is still whether we could materially do so.

A first step could already consist in obliging or strongly recommending the vaccine to the most fragile populations, such as the elderly or vulnerable.

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