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POLITICS

Just 20 percent of the French remain vaccine-sceptic, latest polls show

Previously the most sceptical nation in Europe over the Covid vaccine, latest polls show the French are now much more likely to get the shot, with a big fall in the number of people saying they do not intend to be vaccinated.

Just 20 percent of the French remain vaccine-sceptic, latest polls show
As the French vaccine rollout picks up the pace, vaccine scepticism has fallen. Photo: Thomas Samson/AFP

Polls from early January, as the Covid vaccination drive began, reported just 40 percent of French people saying they intended to get the vaccine, causing a huge headache for politicians since a minimum of 60 percent of the population needs to be vaccinated to gain herd immunity.

But as the vaccine drive picks up the pace – and following an advertising campaign from the government – new polls show the French much more enthusiastic about getting their jab.

The poll conducted by the centre for political research at Sciences Po university by polling firm Opinion Way, reported 65 percent of people saying they had either been vaccinated or intended to be vaccinated.

Thirteen percent said they were unsure and 20 percent said they did not intend to get the vaccine.

This broadly correlates with the predictions of France’s health minister Olivier Véran, who on Wednesday said he believed that 80 percent of the population would get the vaccine in the end.

He told radio station LCI: “A few months ago, at best 40 percent of French people wanted to be vaccinated. 

“We had counted on 60 percent of the French population by age group. We wanted to go up to 70 percent, we’re going to get 80 percent. 

“The French don’t believe without having seen, they have doubts – that’s our collective strength. But they do what they need to do to be protected.”

The below graphics from French journalist Nicolas Berrod show the percentages vaccines in each age group (blue for one dose only, red for fully vaccinated) with the highest percentage in the 75 plus age group, who have been eligible for the vaccine since January.

 

Even the earliest polls showed France to be more vaccine-hesitant than completely anti-vaccine, with many people saying simply that they hadn’t made up their minds, or they intended to wait and see how the vaccine rollout went and whether people suffered any ill effects.

Back in January, The Local spoke to Antoine Bristielle, a public opinion researcher with the centre-left Jean-Jaurès Foundation, who warned against giving too much weight to the anti-vaxx movement in France.

“There has been a tendency to think that those expressing a reluctance towards the (Covid-19) vaccine are anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists who would never accept getting vaccinated,” Bristielle told The Local.

Of the 40-50 percent Covid-19 vaccine sceptics, only 20 percent have decided they will definitely not get the jab.

“The rest are people who doubt. They can be persuaded,” Bristielle said. To be convinced, those on the fence “need to see that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risk,” Bristielle said.

READ ALSO How worried does France need to be about its vaccine sceptics?

After a slow and creaking start, France’s vaccine rollout has moved into a high gear in recent weeks, with more than 500,000 people getting vaccinated most days, and France on Thursday recording an all-time record of 672,000 injections given.

 

The government’s target to have given at least one dose to 20 million people by May 15th was hit, and the next target is 30 million people (around 60 percent of the adult population) by June 15th.

The poll also showed a sharp increase in belief in the vaccine, with 73 percent of those questioned agreeing that “the collective benefit of vaccination is worth getting vaccinated”.

In fact 51 percent of respondents even believe that vaccination should be compulsory for people living in France, compared to 46 percent who are against it. The government has repeatedly said it will not make vaccines compulsory.

The planned ‘health passports’ which will be in use from June 9th will be used only for access to large events such as concerts and not everyday activities such as shopping or going to a café. They also have provision to upload a negative Covid test for those who either cannot be vaccinated or don’t want to be.

READ ALSO How France’s health passport will work this summer 

According to the survey, a large majority of French people (75 percent) want the vaccination campaign to be accelerated and for vaccines to be open to all age groups. The Prime Minister announced on Thursday that vaccination will be open to all adults from May 31st – two weeks ahead of schedule. 

But in case the government gets too cocky, 58 percent of people said the health crisis is not being managed well and the same proportion think the vaccine rollout is not being managed well.

Overall, 55 percent of respondents said it was probable that “our leaders know important things about the Covid-19 epidemic that citizens are not informed about.”

The poll was conducted online between May 3rd and 11th with 1,832 respondents from a representative demographic sample. 

Member comments

  1. This is a side effect of initial scarcity – now vaccine is seeing as a treasured and rare thing you have to hunt for. Perfect marketing in any consumerist society.

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POLITICS

A #MeToo scandal too far in France?

The latest #MeToo scandal in France followed a familiar playbook: allegations of abuse against a senior politician, intense media attention, then a resignation. Except this time, some feminists wonder if the campaign to root out male misconduct has gone too far.

A #MeToo scandal too far in France?

At the centre of the maelstrom is Julien Bayou, the 42-year-old leader of the pro-feminist EELV green party who resigned in late September after being accused by a rival lawmaker from his party of behaviour “that causes mental breakdowns in women”.

The full facts remain unclear — no internal party or police enquiry has been completed — but Bayou’s former partner was said to have suffered from depression after the end of their relationship in November 2021.

That has raised questions about whether he is liable for her mental distress — no physical or sexual abuse was alleged — as well as his right to privacy.

“It was a very painful break-up with suffering on both sides,” Bayou told Le Monde newspaper in an interview on Tuesday in which he denied any criminal behaviour or “psychological violence”.

“I am not responsible for the suffering, which is real, of my ex-partner,” he said.

He claimed he had been the victim of modern-day McCarthyism, a reference to efforts in the United States of the 1950s to root out communists during which simple accusations of left-wing sympathies were enough to drive many people from their jobs.

“Feminism, yes, obviously, always. McCarthyism is something else,” added the former grassroots social activist.

Commenting on fellow EELV lawmaker Sandrine Rousseau, who publicised his break-up and his ex’s mental struggles while taking part in a television show, he said: “She went too far.”

On Tuesday evening, he added during a televised interview: “It’s irresponsible to… make accusations without corroborating” them.

“I am innocent of the facts that have not been presented to me and against which I cannot defend myself,” he said.

Collateral damage?

Liberation newspaper also revealed at the weekend that a group of feminists had been investigating Bayou privately, speaking to his former partners with a view to building a case against him.

He likened the experience to being “put under surveillance”.

The case has sparked an internal crisis in EELV at the same time as its larger left-wing ally, the France Unbowed party, has been embarrassed by news that one of its senior parliamentarians slapped his wife.

Three ministers in President Emmanuel Macron’s governments since 2016 have been accused of rape, most recently social cohesion minister Damien Abad, who was sacked in July. All three deny the allegations.

But Bayou has found support among some of the usual backers of the #MeToo movement, which since 2017 has helped highlight the prevalence of sexual abuse by men.

“A break-up, even more so when it is the result of a unilateral decision, is violent by its nature,” read an editorial defending Bayou in the left-wing Liberation last week.

Socialist former women’s rights minister Laurence Rossignol referred to “dysfunctions” in the way he had been treated, adding: “These things should not be sorted out in television studios.”

And well-known feminist writer Caroline Fourest raised her misgivings, saying that women needed to continue to denounce their aggressors, but that journalists and politicians needed to be aware of the risk of allegations being instrumentalised.

“Today there are men and women who are collateral victims of the explosion in speaking out,” she told L’Opinion magazine.

Justice denied?

In Bayou’s case, his accuser has not spoken publicly or through a lawyer about her allegations, leaving the claims by Rousseau — an ambitious, internal rival — as the only evidence against him.

In July, Bayou’s former partner approached an internal committee of the EELV party tasked with investigating allegations of sexual misconduct, but then declined to testify.

That meant the enquiry stalled, leaving Bayou unable to give his version of events despite asking to be auditioned on four occasions.

Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti said he was “fed up” with efforts by political parties to set up their own investigations into sexual harassment.

“The judicial system is the only place in a democracy where justice can be delivered,” he told a committee in parliament on September 27.

But many feminist campaigners disagree.

They point out that the overwhelming majority of rape or sexual assault cases conclude without convictions and that women often decline to lodge police complaints because they view it as pointless.

Many highly regulated professions — from medics to lawyers — also have internal disciplinary processes that sanction members outside of the judicial system.

Rousseau said on Sunday she had no regrets about denouncing her colleague “at a moment when there was a need for transparency.”

“I am protecting the struggle of women and I will continue to protect it. I won’t give up,” she told France 3.

Bayou remains a member of parliament and has vowed to clear his name.

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