France to consider compulsory vaccinations for healthcare workers

EMBARGOED TO 2330 TUESDAY OCTOBER 27 File photo dated 05/10/09 of a person receiving a vaccination.

A person receiving a vaccination - Credit: PA

Due to a low vaccination rate amongst healthcare staff, the government is embarking on plans to require those working in the healthcare sector to take the jab. 

Concerns also arose after residents of a nursing home in the Landes region of France were infected with the Delta variant of Covid-19. 

In this nursing home cluster, one of several in the Landes region, 23 residents - 21 of whom had not been inoculated - and six staff members were infected with the variant. 19 of the cases were identified as the new Delta variant and three residents had to be hospitalised. 

To stop this from occurring again, legislation is now being written to demand individuals who work in hospitals and nursing homes to take the Covid-19 vaccine. Prime minister Jean Castex said that consultations on the policy would commence “in the coming days”. 

“I am, like all French people, shocked when we see the epidemic reintroduced through those whose vocation is to protect and care. This is not acceptable,” he continued. 

Politicians are yet to confirm if this bill would be formally presented before parliament before the summer break or in September. However, health minister Olivier Véran implied in a letter addressed to directors of hospitals and nursing homes that health workers would have until September to get their vaccines. 

If, at this point, fewer than 80% of staff have been vaccinated then “we will pave the way for mandatory vaccination for health professionals,” Véran wrote. 

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The latest figures show that fewer than 60% of nursing home employees and fewer than 64% of hospital employees have been vaccinated, as reported by Alain Fischer, the government’s lead man on the vaccination effort. 

For Fischer, these statistics are inadequate. “This is clearly insufficient,” he told the weekly newspaper, Le Journal du Dimanche. “They must do it to protect patients. It is a principle of responsibility and example setting,” he added in the publication. 

He also thinks the legislation should be extended to include anyone who is in contact with the public. Failing this, he fears these low vaccination rates could lead to a fourth wave of the pandemic across the country. He also expressed that too many citizens feel the first dose counts as sufficient protection against the virus. 

Calls to make the vaccine obligatory for the sector are also coming from within. In Le Journal du Dimanche, 96 of the nation’s top health professionals penned and signed an open letter to the government requesting they make the vaccine compulsory for “any person who, in a public or private prevention or care establishment or institution, or one that accommodates the elderly, performs a professional activity that exposes him or her or the persons in his or her charge to risks of contamination”.

These representatives of the sector further wrote that it is essential caregivers are vaccinated “because it is an ethical duty to protect the vulnerable people in their care”. 

Support in the sector is not, however, unanimous. The AD-PA, an association for directors of nursing homes are strong critics of the policy. 

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