One in three French people say they would refuse a Covid-19 vaccine

One in three people in France say they would not agree to be vaccinated against Covid-19 if and when a vaccine is discovered, according to a new survey.

One in three French people say they would refuse a Covid-19 vaccine
The anti-vax trend is not a new one in France. Photo: AFP

A survey carried out by the YouGov institute for leHuffPost found that of the representative sample of French adults, 32 percent said they would not agree to be vaccinated.

Although the sample size is small, the survey results are in line with a long-standing French skepticism about vaccines that leads to one of the lowest trust in vaccines in the world.

Other studies conducted by French scientists have put the level of people who say they would refuse a vaccine at between 20 and 25 percent.

READ ALSO Why are the French so fond of conspiracy theories?

Sociologist Jeremy Ward, who has been studying attitudes to vaccines, told HuffPost: “The main reason given for this reluctance is the idea that the vaccine will be made too quickly and therefore may be unsafe.”

“The data from our studies reveal in particular the importance of the political factor in this reticence, which is much stronger among people who feel close to extreme left-wing and extreme right-wing parties, as well as those who declare themselves to be without political orientation and who abstained during the previous presidential election.”

However he added that many people say they have doubts about vaccines but get vaccinated anyway, so a concern about a vaccine does not necessarily mean that people will refuse it.

The anti-vax trend is not a new one in France. A study done in 2019 showed that 33 percent of people in France did not agree that vaccines were safe – the highest rate in the world – and that year France also reported a resurgence in cases of measles.

Francoise Salvadori, a biologist and co-author of Antivax, a history of the anti-vaccination movement in France, has previously told The Local that a particularly French strain of anti-authoritarianism may be connected to the lack of trust in vaccines.

“France is the only country in the world that has made vaccines obligatory.
“We have never abandoned 'paternalistic medicine' despite the fact that every time more vaccines are pushed upon us, there is a greater resistance to them.

“But it is difficult for the government to know how to take action when not enough people are being vaccinated – and yet obliging them to do so does not seem to work either.”  

On top of that in France health ministers are often doctors, and therefore seen as complicit in any dealings with the pharmaceutical industry, “stuffing their pockets and working against the public”, said Salvadori.

During the height of the pandemic there were many conspiracy theories, often anti-Semitic, circulating online accusing public health officials of deliberately prolonging the crisis for profit or even of creating the virus deliberately in a laboratory.

Data on vaccine take-up over the last 10 years shows that between 80 and 90 percent of French children are vaccinated.







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France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25

Free birth control for all women under 25 will be available in France from Saturday, expanding a scheme targeting under-18s to ensure young women don't stop taking contraception because they cannot afford it.

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25
A doctor holds an interuterine contraceptive device (IUD) before inserting it in a patient. Photo: Adek Berry/AFP

The scheme, which could benefit three million women, covers the pill, IUDs, contraceptive patches and other methods composed of steroid hormones. Contraception for minors was already free in France.

Several European countries, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, make contraception free for teens. Britain makes several forms of contraception free to all.

France announced the extension to women under 25 in September, saying surveys showed a decline in the use of contraception mainly for financial reasons.

The move is part of a series of measures taken by President Emmanuel Macron’s government to boost women’s rights and alleviate youth poverty. The free provision is supported by women’s groups including the association En Avant Tous.

“Between 18 and 25-years-old, women are very vulnerable because they lose a lot of rights compared to when they were minors and are very precarious economically,” spokeswoman Louise Delavier told AFP.

Leslie Fonquerne, an expert in gender issues, said there was more to be done.

“This measure in no way resolves the imbalance in the contraceptive burden between women and men,” the sociologist said.

In some developed countries, the free contraception won by women after decades of campaigning is coming under attack again from the religious right.

In the United States, former president Barack Obama’s signature health reform, known as Obamacare, gave most people with health insurance free access to birth control.

But his successor Donald Trump scrapped the measure, allowing employers to opt out of providing contraception coverage on religious grounds — a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2020.

Poland’s conservative government has also heavily restricted access to emergency contraception as part of its war on birth control.