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Vaccine resistance

As of today I can no longer see my GP or physiotherapist, but still have appointments with the osteopath and podiatrist. Why? Because my GP and physiotherapist are amongst the small but vociferous minority of health professionals who have not received even one dose of a Covid vaccination and are therefore not allowed to practise until vaccinated. Unreal and distressing.

When the new law was first announced in July, a third of those who work in health care or other essential fields like retirement homes and fire services had still not been vaccinated. This number is now down to ten per cent. This and the other controversial law – the requirement for a pass sanitaire before being served in restaurants – have polarised opinion in the Cévennes.

I’ve just watched a replay of a TV programme in which an academic from Montpellier showed that 54% of people in the age range 40-54 in le Vigan have still to be vaccinated, as compared with 34% in the whole region of Occitanie. In the age range 20-39 the figure is 65% still to be vaccinated, compared with 47% in Occitanie.

I know so many people in this area who have not been vaccinated. One of the confusing things is the variety of reasons they have given me:

  • I don’t like injections
  • I’m against vaccinations generally
  • The covid vaccines have not been around long enough/tested enough.  Maybe when it is around a bit longer I will get the jab.
  • I’ not being offered a French vaccine
  • The vaccines can give you Covid
  • I don’t need a vaccine – I am young, healthy, work outside, live in the Cévennes where there is little covid
  • Vaccinated and non-vaccinated people are equally likely to transmit Covid
  • The old and vulnerable have been vaccinated – give the rest to the third world
  • The vaccines are dangerous – danger of thrombosis, infertilitity etc
  • I don’t trust anything the Government/politicians/doctors/scientists say.  I can’t/won’t believe any of the reports in the news
  • I object to being forced/blackmailed by the Government to be vaccinated
  • I should be free to do what I want

I tend to put these objections into two groups: those against the vaccine and those opposed to the Government actions to increase vaccination level.

I’m too weary to go on and on countering the objections to vaccinations or more specifically the covid vaccinations, trying fruitlessly to suggest that reading what the scientists are reporting rather than listening to social media or basing an entire position on personal experiences.

I suppose the only credence I would give would be to the objection that the vaccines have not been around for long enough to know their long-term effects. Normally one would expect clinical trials to last several years before a new treatment is improved. But these are not normal times; this is a serious global pandemic, potentially more serious than the flu pandemic of 1918. It has caused an incredible upsurge in concerted scientific research and sharing of data. We simply cannot afford to wait until the usual phase 3 trials to test the efficacy of the vaccines and any adverse reactions are fully completed.

I have less patience with the blithe optimism that here in the Cévennes people are OK provided they are young, fit, respect the rules of fresh air, wearing of masks and maintaining social distances. There have been enough cases here to show that we are not magically protected.

Equally I have little time for those who put the views of politicians, the media (including social media) and scientists and other academics into the same pot to be mistrusted. I am amazed at how few people here ever seem to read any statistical reports coming not just from official French sources but organisations like WHO and internationally respected universities.

And I despair with those who object in the name of liberté, freedom from oppression – or simply hostility to anything done by Macron and his government (which is not the same thing as saying I’m a fan of Macron). How many times have I failed to persuade people to accept that the rights of individual freedom of choice have to be tempered by obligations to others as members of society? Nor do I have much sympathy with the health workers’ line that they are being maltreated and effectively treated as criminals beau they risk 10,000 euro fines or six months prison if they continue to exercise their professions while unvaccinated.

When I was young I demonstrated against nuclear arms, racism, for women’s rights etc. I usually thought I was on the side of right even when we lost the cause, as with nuclear disarmament. This time I wonder sometimes if I am the wrong side of the barricades, on the side of the Establishment against the idealists!

It is particularly distressing when I find myself in such disagreement with two women I hold in much esteem and affection, Maëlle, my doctor, and Charlotte, my physiotherapist. I am particularly upset by the stand of Maëlle, one of the leaders of the opposition to pass sanitaire and the obligation of health and care workers to be vaccinated. So many of the people I know who refuse to be vaccinated are her patients or are influenced by her stand, including a good friend recovering from a second bout of lung cancer.

I worry about their futures. Charlotte works on her own and I fear that in a few weeks she will run out of money to pay the rent on her cabinet, let alone have enough to live on. In Maëlle’s case it is even more serious, since the entire cabinet – doctors, physiotherapist, speech therapist and gynaecologist -is now closed. This is one of the two main healthcare groups in le Vigan, which is already has inadequate care for an area with a lot of old people.

Charlotte and Maëlle both seem optimistic that the government will either cave in or some sort of compromise made. I’m not so sure. And I’m not sure whether I would approve of such a compromise.

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