France drops Covid-19 vaccine requirement for healthcare workers

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France drops Covid-19 vaccine requirement for healthcare workers
A nurse with a bag of used protective face masks. (Photo by Eric PIERMONT / AFP)

Eighteen months after it was introduced, France is to drop an obligation for healthcare professionals to be vaccinated against Covid, and will allow unvaccinated staff to return to work.


Healthcare workers in France no longer need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 in order to be able to work, Health Minister François Braun has announced, in a decision that paves the way for several thousand unvaccinated staff to be able to return to work in a matter of days or weeks.

The requirement for health professionals to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 was introduced in autumn 2021, and prompted protests from those opposed to enforced inoculations.

Now, following a consultation process launched at the beginning of February, France’s Haute Autorité de santé (HAS) has recommended the lifting of the requirement, saying that is has changed its advice because Covid levels in France are under control.


The HAS advice statement added that several other countries have already dropped their requirements, and that the vaccine - though effectively protecting from serious forms of the virus - is ineffective in preventing its infection and transmission. 

Those workers still available and open to returning to work in the health sector will be reinstated, following "consultation" with hospital federations and professional bodies, the government said. 

"It is a matter of days, weeks at the most," said Braun's entourage. 

Le Parisien reports the ending of the requirement has upset some doctors, opposed to the idea of unvaccinated colleagues being permitted to return to work, amid concerns it could give additional fuel to anti-vaxxers.

The consultation is also considering whether to drop the requirement for healthcare workers to be vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus and poliomyelitis. But a requirement for vaccination against hepatitis B seems set to remain.

Numerous associations of doctors, patients, unions and authorities had argued for maintaining vaccination requirements. A decision to the contrary would be "considered by the detractors of vaccination as a disavowal of the current strategy and used as such", warned the Société française d’hygiène hospitalière.

The HAS has said that, although the requirement has been dropped, vaccination against Covid-19 will be “strongly recommended” for workers in the healthcare sector.

“This recommendation does not constitute a challenge to its previous opinions and recommendations made in different health and epidemic contexts," insisted the authority on Thursday. 

"The message must be clear, because the antivax will jump,” immunologist Stéphane Paul, a member of the Technical Commission of vaccinations of the HAS, said.

The compulsory vaccination of healthcare workers was the last of the Covid-related rules to be relaxed or scrapped after requirements for a vaccine pass or health pass and compulsory mask rules were dropped in 2022. 


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