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.
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I'm not crying at this French vaccination ad, you're crying https://t.co/PVvjas3Y3D
— Katy Lee (@kjalee) March 9, 2021
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 rugby-themed one in the French government's 'please get vaccinated' ad campaign, I too am dreaming of being back in a stadium (watching, with 🍻) https://t.co/LAFo9E5RSq
— Emma Pearson (@LocalFR_Emma) May 8, 2021
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.
— Nicolas Berrod (@nicolasberrod) May 20, 2021
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.
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.
Il y a eu 672 000 vaccinations hier, un record.
En tant que ministre de l'Intérieur, je tiens à souligner la mobilisation exceptionnelle de nos sapeurs-pompiers qui vaccinent, vaccinent et vaccinent.
— Gérald DARMANIN (@GDarmanin) May 21, 2021
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.
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.