Covid-19: Behind the Reintegration of Caregivers and the End of the Vaccination Obligation, the Fear of Antivax Discourse

General News
Unvaccinated caregivers will be reinstated from mid-May, while the National Assembly voted on Thursday to repeal their vaccination obligation

PUBLIC HEALTH: The Assembly voted this Thursday in first reading the repeal of the vaccination obligation for caregivers, while the non-vaccinated will be able to return to work in mid-May

  • A few days ago, the Minister of Health, François Braun, announced the “mid-May” reintegration of non-vaccinated caregivers.
  • And this Thursday, the Assembly adopted at first reading a text to repeal the anti-Covid vaccination obligation for caregivers, rather than simply suspending this obligation, as the government plans.
  • Announcements that arouse the concern of many health professionals, who fear the dissemination of anti-vax and conspiratorial speech to patients.

The fall is fast approaching. In mid-May, caregivers suspended for lack of a complete vaccination schedule against Covid-19 will be reinstated. They will be able to resume their work, announced before the weekend by the Minister of Health, François Braun. A decision follows the favourable opinion of the High Authority for Health (HAS), given at the end of March, as to the lifting of the vaccination obligation for caregivers and other professionals concerned. By the end of 2021, it had been imposed on a total of 2.7 million people, and a few thousand had been suspended after refusing it. A very low proportion with regard to the workforce: in March, the ministry estimated for example that “around 0.3%” of hospital agents had been suspended.

And a new fact, the deputies adopted this Thursday in first reading a bill to repeal – and not only suspend – this vaccination obligation, against the will of the government.

Abrogation, and non suspension

The reintegration of suspended personnel had become a political battleground, especially for the RN and LFI. But the announcement made to this effect by the Minister of Health was obviously not considered sufficient by many opposition deputies, especially from overseas. Like Jean-Victor Castor (Guyana), the author of the text voted on today. “The decree [planned by the government] will only suspend the suspensions, leaving the possibility” to use them again, he insisted. Its text also provides that officers “retain the right to advancement they had before the suspension”.

The deputies on the left particularly endeavoured, during the debate, to reject the accusations of “conspiracy”. “I repeat the respect we have for scientists, for vaccination,” insisted the national secretary of the PCF, Fabien Roussel.

“Conspiracy prevailed over science”

But this vote made many caregivers jump. “Thank you LFI. It is the poorest, those who live in promiscuity, who have suffered the most, regrets the emergency doctor Mathias Wargon on Twitter. It was the orderlies, stretcher-bearers, and nurses who were closest to the patients. By trampling on the vaccination obligation, you are making the bed for the next epidemics, ”he reproached the rebellious elected officials. The president of the National Council of the Order of Physicians, Jean-Marcel Mourgues, for his part spoke of his “misunderstanding”, while “the Covid continues to make sick and kill a lot of people”. Even today, “it kills more than the flu, with 206 deaths” in France in the last week of April, he recalled.

And Francois Braun? “Conspiracy prevailed over science during the debates in the Assembly. Vaccination is a weapon of massive protection, but the oppositions have decided to send a regrettable message to caregivers, ”he reacted on Twitter. “When the Minister announced yesterday the reintegration of unvaccinated caregivers and today deplores the repeal of the vaccination obligation, there is a problem of consistency”, then tackles Thierry Amouroux, spokesperson for the National Union of Nursing Professionals .

The fear of antivax discourse among patients

For health professionals preparing to see non-vaccinated colleagues return, the latest announcements, therefore, raise concern. “We wonder about the return to our services of caregivers hostile to vaccination, who reject scientific data, and about the discourse they could hold with patients, confides Thierry Amouroux. First of all, there is the prevention of health risks by vaccinating caregivers: protecting them from contamination in their workplace, and preventing them from causing patients with nosocomial contamination, he insists. But there is also the whole ethical aspect: we have people who, after almost two years of suspension, hold antivax and conspiracy speeches. If these caregivers resume their activity and the vote to repeal the vaccination obligation is confirmed [the text must now be examined by the Senate], what will they answer to the fragile patients who question them on the merits of the vaccination?”

Fears are shared by Dr Jérôme Marty, general practitioner and president of the French Union for Free Medicine (UFML), who deplores the decision of the Minister of Health to reinstate non-vaccinated caregivers. “Those who left the boat in the middle of a storm, who left their sisters and brothers to face their defections, who espoused crazy and anti-science theses without coming back, who, when they had non-RNA vaccines, have not done so, who continue to propagate ideas transmitted by crooks, who capitalize on charlatanism, these do not have to be reinstated”. “Those who think that the vaccine is part of a vast plan which aims to eradicate a part of humanity have nothing to do with the care”, he informed François Braun this Thursday.

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