Macron orders health care workers to get vaccinated, mandates COVID-19 passes for everyone

AP Photo/Francois Mori

French President Emmanuel Macron has set a deadline of September 15 for all French health care workers to be fully vaccinated. Macron delivered a televised address that included telling everyone that if they want to go to a restaurant or a shopping mall or get on a train, or any other normal activity, they will need to show a special COVID-19 pass. A COVID-19 pass requires proof of being fully vaccinated, recently recovered from the virus, or have a recent negative test result.

All of these new demands are due to the rise of COVID-19 infections likely driven by the delta variant. The summer vacation season has kicked off and everyone is eager for life to get back to normal. France’s population is 40% fully vaccinated.

“Get vaccinated!” was the president’s overall message. He even tweeted a GIF of himself repeating the phrase.

“The country is facing a strong resumption of the epidemic touching all our territory,” Macron said, speaking against the backdrop of the Eiffel Tower. Warning of a new wave of potential hospitalizations in August, he said, “The equation is simple. The more we vaccinate, the less space we leave this virus to circulate.”

But he stopped short of any new lockdown measures, saying “We have to learn to live with the virus.”

No lockdown but he did declare a medical state of emergency, which allows authorities more freedom to impose virus restrictions. Most European governments have not mandated vaccinations. France experienced the deaths of tens of thousands in French nursing homes. Issuing a vaccination mandate for French health care workers now seems to be a delayed-action to mitigate the virus. Nonetheless, all health care workers, whether in medical facilities or nursing homes or caretakers in private homes must all be fully vaccinated by September 15. Those who fail to meet the deadline face the possibility of sanctions or fines.

Other European countries are issuing demands of health care workers and some are requiring digital passes to go to restaurants and other public spaces.

Greece announced Monday that health care workers will be suspended if they refuse to get vaccinated. Italy made the coronavirus vaccination obligatory for health care workers and pharmacists, and those who opt out risk suspension from their jobs or a salary cut.

In Denmark, restaurants and public events require a digital pass showing you’ve been fully vaccinated or have a recent negative test. Some German states require the same for restaurants, though suggestions of making vaccines obligatory have prompted widespread unease.

Just as in the United States, vaccines are available for anyone over the age of 12. And, just like in the United States, France has hit a vaccine wall where interest in getting vaccinated is waning. Some people have put off getting vaccinated until it is time for their summer vacation. Macron’s announcements have produced new demands for vaccines. France will start charging money for some virus tests, which have been free until now.

Two weeks ago, COVID-19 infections started rising again in France. The rise of the delta variant cases is expected to cause a rise in hospitalizations and fill intensive care units again. It is already happening in Britain and Spain. France is one of the world’s biggest economies and it is prime tourist season. Macron has been trying to implement a post-pandemic economic recovery plan that is now threatened by a new rise in COVID-19 cases. Macron is up for re-election in nine months.

The French are ready to get out of their homes and go about more normal life. They are responding to Macron’s call to get vaccinated.

An app that centralizes France’s vaccine and other medical appointments, Doctolib, announced Tuesday that 1.3 million people signed up for injections after Macron gave a televised address Monday night urging more vaccination. It was a daily record since France rolled out coronavirus vaccines in December. People under age 35 made up most of the new appointments, Doctolib said.

Some said the government’s vaccine push makes them feel safer, but others expressed frustration at the idea of mandatory vaccines or mandatory passes to go to a cafe — and at yet more rules from Macron’s government.

“I’m getting vaccinated because I want to have a social life and go on holidays,” said law student Marius Chavenon, 22. But he added, “I don’t think vaccination should be compulsory. We live in is France, we should be able to do what we want.”

In Paris, nurse Solene Manable said, “There are many health workers who don’t want to get vaccinated because we don’t know much about the vaccines.” But she said she understood “many people who are getting vaccinated to be able to go back to restaurants … to be able to have a normal life again.”

Sounds familiar, right? Europeans are as conflicted as Americans on vaccines and mandates while everyone just wants to get out and live their lives. The French health minister put it bluntly, “The question is: It’s lockdown, or the health pass.”

According to Johns Hopkins University data, France has recorded more than 5.8 million confirmed COVID-19 cases. There have been over 111,540 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic in France.