Inside France’s Vaccination Rollout Campaign: Part II

France, a vaccine-sceptic country.

vaccine france
Image par Arek Socha de Pixabay 

Vaccine hesitancy is deep-seated in France’s roots, nourished by anti-vaccination movements. People’s faith, not only in vaccines, but in science has crumbled; immunities have weakened, and the appearance of COVID-19 has not improved the situation. In 2020, according to Gallup, only 47% of France’s population believed that vaccines are safe, whereas the UK was at 75%, and the U.S. at 72%.

The anti-vaccination movements have gained enormous importance during the last year and were able to convince many vaccine hesitators. On Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, groups are created, titling themselves as “Antivaccination” or “no to forced vaccination”…and more. On these virtual conversations, many links are shared to anchor opinions, including: articles regarding the dangers of vaccination, interviews (taken out of context,) documents and other forms. But most anti-vax groups broadcast countless fake news, which can lead to dangerous results.

The vaccination is also a source of conspiracy theories for many. For example, many French citizens believe that the government is collaborating with pharmaceuticals establishments to hide the reality of the vaccine’s effects, or that the government implants 5G chips through the vaccination process. Laurent-Henri Vignaud, French author and professor, stated that the pandemic did not alter the anti-vax speech: “The two dominant themes are: political – the fight against ‘Big Brother’ – and economic – the fight against ‘Big Pharma.'” Many shared opinions by this movement are not based on evidence, while the “anti-vax radicals” often put the blame on Freemasonry, the government, and the pharmaceutical institutes.

In the last few months, petitions have been started by anti-vaccine groups. For instance, a petition named “No to required vaccination” has amassed 150,000 signatures to raise these questions: “It is dangerous and useless.” “Why should we be forced to be injected with a vaccine which has been on the market for less than a year?”

Such opinions are especially present among the youth (from 18 to 24-year-olds.) We asked some anti-vax students to explain their points of view:

“I just don’t feel concerned about COVID…why get vaccinated if we are still going to be masked and have a curfew? The government’s strategy doesn’t make any sense,” reveals a 19-year-old student.

A student in Lille explains, “From the moment this pandemic started, the government has not thought about us once. The universities were closed for a year, we had no social life, and they kept talking about the senior citizens. I didn’t feel I was at risk, yet they took our liberties away.”

Another 21-year-old student in Paris says, “Like most of my friends, I already got COVID, so I don’t need to be vaccinated.” A resentment against the government, deprivation of freedom, a lack of trust in the medical system; many arguments are used by young citizens to justify their wish of not being vaccinated.

covid vaccine
Photo by Hakan Nural on Unsplash

The pandemic has not ignited the situation, however, anti-vaccination movements were present long before COVID ever was. In 2019, according to Gallup 1 out of 3 French citizens did not believe in vaccines, and 1 out of 10 did not see the importance of vaccinating children. Since 2018, France has gone from 3 to 11 obligatory vaccines, to remind the population of their duty to participate in the collective protection against viruses.

The late 1990s and early 2000s were filled with multiple sanitary scandals, thus the 2002 Kouchner Law changed the shape of the public health system. The Kouchner Law was voted under the presidency of Jacques Chirac, it states that the patient must have free consent regarding treatment proposals.

Several events damaged the citizen’s faith in vaccines, which the government had recently started to build back up. In the late 1990s, a supposed “link” was found between the Hepatitis B vaccine and the presence of multiple sclerosis, or the Andrew Wakefield case (an English scientist who claimed there was a link between vaccination and autism.) In this latter case, the research was redacted since the results were incorrect, however, it had already managed to elicit reactions.

Fortunately, to counter these movements, the government and pharmaceutical companies have been completely transparent about their communication which may explain why there is a greater approval of the COVID vaccine today.

Françoise Salvadori et Laurent-Henri Vignaud, Antivax. La résistance aux vaccins du xviiie siècle à nos jours, Paris, Vendémiaire, 2019, 360 pages.

Freemasonry: the largest fraternal organization which can be traced back to the 14th century. It is non-political and non-religious.

Eve McGuardian


Eve was born and raised in NYC and later on, moved to Paris. She grew up in an international home and is fluent in both French and English. Every chance she gets, she travels; either to discover a new culture or as a volunteer in an organization. The most memorable cities she has been to are: Ischia, a little island off the coast of Naples for the people, Istanbul for the culture, and Paris for the architecture.

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