Covid-19: when vaccination turns into family conflict

Despite the government’s efforts to ramp up the vaccine against Covid-19, some French people remain resistant to the vaccine. In some families, this situation can generate tensions, which have been exacerbated since the announcement of the tightening of health policy in France. Testimonials.

On Wednesday July 21, Prime Minister Jean Castex detailed the government’s roadmap to counter the progression of the Delta variant. “We know the key (…) we must vaccinate” he hammered to justify the tightening of health measures announced on July 12 by Emmanuel Macron. While vaccination was already a sensitive subject in certain family circles, the announcements of the extension of the health pass and compulsory vaccination for several professional categories exacerbated these tensions, sometimes going as far as to generate situations of rupture.

“Complicated family context”

“Among my relatives, almost everyone is vaccinated, my parents, my colleagues … It becomes almost embarrassing” quips Julien *, a young father from the Parisian suburbs. At work, this senior manager within a large banking group based in Montreuil feels a little alone: ​​“Everything is known in the office. Once, my boss asked me the question ‘cash’: ‘And you, are you vaccinated?’ Since I don’t like to lie, I launched into a convoluted explanation of my complicated family background. They all take me for a UFO ”.

Julien is not opposed to vaccination, he is even rather in favor of it if it can allow “to protect oneself and others” and to continue to practice his activities, in particular going to the gym. But he postponed the deadline several times to avoid conflicts with his partner, Inès *, fiercely opposed to the Covid-19 vaccine. “She is convinced that the Covid can be treated and that the vaccine is dangerous because we do not have enough perspective on the side effects,” he explains. “She is following the subject very closely and over time, our discussions have turned into a dialogue of deaf.”

For Inès and Julien, the situation has gradually become tense with the extension of vaccination to all age groups. “I decided to put the debate under the rug, at least temporarily. Especially since we had Covid19 in January and therefore we had antibodies,” he says. “But the situation has become more and more complicated to manage, because our respective families are not at all on the same wavelength and worry about us. It is as if we have slipped into a generalized conflict. On Inès’ side, they try to dissuade me because they are convinced that there is a risk. I oppose them the same argument, it worries me that they refuse the vaccine, in particular for his father and his mother who Fortunately, at five and two years old, our children are too small for vaccination, so the question does not arise, even if they sometimes attend our spat. family, this debate has taken on a crazy dimension ”.

“A climate of permanent self-censorship”

For Sarah *, a 37-year-old audiovisual technician who lives in Hauts-de-Seine, the tireless debates on the vaccine have also ended in an impasse. In permanent conflict with her father and her mother-in-law, the young woman decided, to preserve her family, to take a break: “We don’t see each other anymore for the moment, the health crisis makes the discussions too complicated. Between us the question of the vaccine has become a poison that generates a constant climate of suspicion. I had to make up my mind, this situation is not viable, ”she laments in a sad but resolute tone.

The trouble started last Christmas, shortly before the launch of the vaccination campaign in France. “We were supposed to meet in Marseille, where my family lives, for the holidays. But I was worried about my aunt, aged and frail, and I could tell from talking to my father and mother-in-law that they weren’t paying attention at all. I myself am a fragile person because I have an autoimmune disease “.

Finally, Sarah and her brother decide to cancel their trip as a precaution. A decision then badly perceived, tells the person concerned: “My father and my mother-in-law tried to reassure us, but I could see that something was strange, they kept telling us and my brother to come, even then. that the health situation was deteriorating. We found them very casual, they were annoyed by our reluctance. In April, we were able to go to Marseille. It had been nine months since we last saw each other and there, in the midst of the national vaccine debate, we realized that the gap had widened. We were treated to everything, the presentation on the side effects of the vaccine, the manipulation of the government … It created a very bad atmosphere and a climate of permanent self-censorship to avoid tension ”.

Sarah believes that the vaccination acted as a catalyst that exacerbated already pre-existing differences. “My mother-in-law has always been a little suspicious of medication, she treats my half-brothers and sisters with homeopathy, and that annoys me because they catch lots of viruses. The issue of vaccination turned these little anecdotal differences into open conflict. When my 18-year-old half-sister and my aunt ask me, I’m not going to lie to them: yes I got the vaccine and yes I think it is effective. My mother-in-law sees it as an attack or even worse, a betrayal. This is all the more the case since my half-sister realized that she could not travel without a health pass and finally decided, against her mother’s advice, to be vaccinated. ”

Announcements and “shit”

On July 12, Julien, Inès and Sarah were in front of their television to listen to Emmanuel Macron announce the extension of the health pass and the vaccination obligation for certain professionals. Unsurprisingly, the first two had a bad evening. “I am divided on the expansion of the health pass” explains Julien. “I hear it might be necessary against the progression of the new variant, but at the same time, I see that the obligation arouses even greater rejection in those around me. Inès, the pass, she does not want to hear about it, it has become a question of principle. For me, these announcements are first and foremost trouble ”.

Sarah, for her part, could not suppress a fleeting pleasure: “It’s horrible to say, but for a minute I really said to myself that it was done well for them, after all our confusion on the subject. But of course, this policy of obligation that does not make me happy. As a society, it’s sad to have come to this. And then that does not solve my family problems ”. After the latest government announcements, Sarah reluctantly decided to distance herself, hoping to be able to reconnect with her father and stepmother in a more peaceful context.

Julien, for his part, believes that he can no longer retreat in the face of changes in health policy: “I have already announced the color: at the start of the school year, that’s for sure, I get vaccinated, I don’t have choice. If they toughen up the measures even more, how are we going to deal with the children? With my health pass, we will be able to go out and do activities … However, I will no longer be able to go home! ” he launches with a sudden burst of laughter. His partner Inès is a school teacher; a profession which so far has not seen compulsory vaccination. “Only the risk of losing his job could make him consider vaccination,” says Julien. “But I really hope I never get to this, because I know how distressing it is and my support would be very unwelcome, being in favor of the vaccination myself. For us, there is no simple solution, we are well aware that our approaches are irreconcilable and that we must, moreover, protect our family. The uncertain evolution of the pandemic does not make things easier, but I reassure myself as best I can, by telling myself that it is a bad time to pass ”.

* The first names have been changed at the request of those concerned.

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