After all, the social and economic implications are dizzying. Will France’s labor laws have to be changed to include a vaccination obligation? Will it be legal to fire employees who don’t comply? Can businesses, already hurt by the pandemic, survive instituting passes? (Cinemas, which already request health passes, have seen the number of customers nearly halve.)
There are darker concerns, too. Protesters fear that the passes will allow for wide-ranging state surveillance, potentially targeting the most vulnerable and even suppressing dissent. There is no guarantee, they warn, that the system will be retired once the virus is defeated. Ironically, the only trade that’s exempt from mandatory vaccination — the police — will be the one to make sure everyone else obeys. The policy is ripe for authoritarian misuse.
There is no doubt that Mr. Macron’s speech helped boost France’s vaccination numbers. After he spoke, online vaccine booking portals crashed because of high demand, and 3.7 million shots were booked the following week. But it has come at a cost. Hoping for quick results in his usual top-down governing style and a show of strength ahead of next year’s elections, the president may have underestimated how close the French were to boiling point. Wagering that the long-term benefits of vaccination would outweigh the immediate backlash, he seems surprised to have stirred blind rage. His bet, always risky, may not pay off.