Doubting the reliability of vaccines, a majority of French people do not want to be vaccinated. If the threat of a health passport looms, LREM has launched a guide to convince the skeptics. A task in which the majority are not alone.
While the vaccination campaign has just started in France, skepticism about vaccines remains high there, a majority of residents not planning to be vaccinated against Covid-19, according to several surveys published in recent weeks. Indeed, according to the latest BVA poll published on December 27 by the JDD, only 44% of people questioned say they want to receive the vaccine, of which only 13% say they are “certain” to do so.
These figures have been constant for weeks, since at the beginning of December a roughly identical proportion of respondents (59%) explained to Ifop that they did not intend to be vaccinated. “There are fears about the harmfulness of vaccines, but also segments of the population susceptible to conspiracy theory. Many people also say that they do not need it, either because they have already been sick, or because they do not feel in danger from the virus ”, explains Frédéric Dabi, Deputy Director General of the Institut de Ifop poll, of which another poll for CNews showed identical results (61% of those polled do not intend to be vaccinated).
If the word “conspiracy” is dropped by the deputy director of Ifop, it would be very reductive to confine mistrust of the vaccine against Covid-19 to followers of questionable theories. Indeed, although most polls have not deigned to explore the reasons for this mistrust, a previous opinion study by BVA nevertheless offers some leads. The first concern is therefore the speed with which the vaccine was produced, and therefore its reliability, but also the lack of perspective on potential side effects.
This second point is particularly present in women, who are even more reluctant than men to be vaccinated. “In the history of vaccination, women have always been more afraid of side effects. In general, they are also more afraid of the risks associated with technological development, such as 5G and GMOs. But we do not really know why ”, notes Jocelyn Raude, sociologist at the School of Advanced Studies in Public Health (EHESP) in Rennes in the columns of the Telegram.
Two other elements are notable: on the one hand, and not surprisingly, age is a determining factor; the over 65s being by far the most favorable to vaccination among the different age groups. “There is a trivialization [du] Covid which scares the youngest less and less. The fear of falling ill and the interest in vaccination increase with the age category, ”underlines Jocelyn Raude.
Finally, vaccination against Covid has become a highly politicized subject: these polls show that the supporters of LREM are overwhelmingly ready to be vaccinated (and to a lesser extent those of the PS and LR), while the reverse is true for sympathizers of France Insoumise, of the National Rally, and even of the Greens.
LREM’s guide to convincing people to “have confidence in the vaccine”
The government having placed vaccination at the heart of its fight against the epidemic, this mistrust is a stone well lodged in its shoe. Aware of the problem, Emmanuel Macron tried to reassure by repeating to anyone who wants to hear him that vaccination would not be compulsory. A way he hopes is a clever way to get around the problem; the government evoking for its part, like the High Commissioner for Planning François Bayrou, the idea of a health passport, which would prohibit unvaccinated people from accessing certain activities.
The maneuver does not fool anyone, however, as evidenced by the almost unanimous rejection of a bill tabled in the National Assembly by Jean Castex on December 21. For its – many – detractors, the sustainability of the health emergency measures provided for in the text, which essentially took up the idea of a health passport, would indeed make the unvaccinated “second-class citizens”.
To get its measures accepted, to say the least unpopular, the majority therefore relies, among other things, on … its members. In a guide for the latter, LREM encourages them to discuss politics on the occasion of the holiday season, and the emphasis is particularly on this subject: “Having confidence in the vaccine.”
“If the concerns around its effectiveness and the potential associated risks are legitimate, the untruths and theories which abound are much less so and need to be countered”, explains the text in the preamble. To counter “those who spread false assertions for political or conspiratorial purposes” in order to “impose by force and manipulation their unique vision”, LREM delivers some elements of language and quotes to remember. Among these, Emmanuel Macron assuring that the vaccine strategy would be based on the recommendations of the High Authority for Health (HAS): “We must not let people think that it is just the pharmaceutical laboratories that communicate.”
In addition to considering the cost, it is more the concern about the rapidity of vaccine development that LREM seeks to counter, by encouraging its members to reverse the argument. “Science is fantastic, medicine is magnificent and rather than doubting it, we should collectively congratulate ourselves! The arrival of vaccines less than a year after the outbreak of the pandemic is an immense hope, and a feat “, asserts LREM, before concluding that it is imperative not to give in” to the sirens of mistrust “, since it is neither more nor less than “the health of our democracy”.
In the media, on social networks
A message that has obviously made its way to the editorialist Christophe Barbier. In a video posted on his Twitter account on December 28, the journalist unveils the “pedagogy” that he believes must be implemented for the French so that they can get vaccinated. With in the first place the need to “convince”: “We must publish the studies which show that the vaccine is effective. It’s not just the press releases from the laboratories, as anti-vaccines claim. “
Christophe Barbier also calls on the government to deploy a communication strategy to encourage “vaccination, as there is to encourage respect for barrier gestures, in the name of altruism”. Finally, the journalist, like the government, lays the foundations for a health passport, to “force” the most reluctant to take the plunge, “by explaining that the unvaccinated will have to assume the responsibility of their choice, namely to withdraw from moments of collective life where they can be dangerous for others ”.
This vast operation, which aims to convince the French of the need – and safety – of vaccination against Covid, can also rely on other relays. Resumed on France Inter, the Facebook page les Vaxxeuses, which has more than 18,000 subscribers is one of them. Created in 2017 following the government’s announcement of the increase in the number of compulsory vaccinations, the Vaxxeuses, are now working on the task “of not leaving the field of social networks to anti-vaccines”.
With a well-established strategy, mix “pedagogy and humor”, by publishing every day on their Facebook page the “pearls” of anti-vaccines. “These are sometimes the most absurd theories, for example the story that is circulating a lot on the Internet at the moment, it is that of the 5G chip that would be present in the Covid vaccine and that the government would like to inject into our body for better control us! ”, explains the creator of the page to France Inter.
It remains to be seen whether, as the creator of Vaxxeuses wishes, this strategy will prevent skeptics from falling into opposition to vaccines …