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Some French health workers resent, resist mandatory vaccines

Some French health workers resent, resist mandatory vaccines

PARIS — While most French health care workers are vaccinated against the coronavirus, a small but vocal minority is holding out. With infections exploding, a new law requiring them to get the shots is exposing the divide.The French government, which has declared that the nation has officially entered its “fourth wave” of the pandemic, pushed the law mandating COVID-19 vaccines for health care workers, to protect hospitals and avoid a new lockdown. Government spokesman Gabriel Attal says the move isn’t meant to stigmatize reluctant health care workers but to limit risks to the vulnerable people they care for.The law, adopted by parliament early Monday, also sets up a “health pass” for everyone in order to access restaurants and other public venues. Both measures have prompted intense debate and two straight weekends of protests around France. Health care workers in white coats have been among the demonstrators.Many cite incorrect information about the vaccines circulating on the internet, worry about their long-term effects or want more time to decide. Several health workers said they took issue with the mandate, not the vaccines themselves.At one Paris protest, some carried signs reading “My body, my choice,” and a health worker dressed as the Statue of Liberty called it an “act of violence” to force people to get vaccinated.Céline Augen, a secretary at a doctor’s office, knows she may lose her job if she refuses to get a shot but protested Saturday anyway.“I’m here today in favor of the freedom to choose to get vaccinated or not,” she said.Solene Manable, a recent nursing school graduate who is working in a Lille hospital, said, “There are many health workers who don’t want to get vaccinated because we don’t know much about the vaccines.”Scientists say that is simply not true anymore. The vaccines used in France — Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson — were tested in tens of thousands of people around the world, and results of the studies have been shared with the public. More than 2 billion people worldwide have now received coronavirus vaccines, including most French adults, providing a broad overview of vaccines’ impact on people’s health.Vaccine hesitancy among some health workers has been an issue in the U.S. and elsewhere, too. But the French mandate is stirring up anger on the political fringes in a country long considered more vaccine-skeptic than its European neighbors.France has faced medical scandals in recent decades involving vaccines, diet pills and breast implants that have seeded doubts about the medical establishment. Suspicion of big pharmaceutical companies is relatively common, and politicians on both the extreme right and the left are now fueling that skepticism for their own ends.Retired doctor Bruno de Ligny, who volunteers in vaccination centers in Normandy, stressed that the technology behind the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines widely used in France, while new, has been under research for more than 20 years. He also noted that French health workers must already be vaccinated against hepatitis B – a vaccine not compulsory for the rest of the population — but “no one claimed that was dictatorial when it was implemented.”“These health workers say they want the ‘freedom’ not to be vaccinated,” he said. “They do not realize that what they are really asking for is the freedom to kill.”Patrick Pelloux, president of the Association of Emergency Physicians of France, lauded the French government for taking decisive action in the face of rising infections. The country is now seeing about 20,000 new infections a day, up from just a few thousand in early July, and has counted over 111,000 virus-related deaths in the pandemic.Pelloux said workers in the lowest-skill health care jobs are among the most vaccine-wary, a symptom of what he called an overlooked “class struggle” in public hospitals, where there is little interaction between different levels of medical workers.In June, France’s public health agency estimated that 72.2% of doctors had received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, compared to 58.7% of nurses and 50% of assistant nurses. The discrepancy predates the pandemic: according to health authorities, 72.2% of doctors received a vaccine against the flu in the winter of 2018, while only 20.9% of assistant nurses did.Some health workers feel they are being talked down to and are underappreciated in general.But emergency medicine doctor Pelloux says vaccine resistance in his profession infuriates him.“Our job is to cure people, not to kill them. We have an ethical…and civic duty to get vaccinated and limit hospital-acquired COVID infections,” he said, adding that most of those who died of COVID-19 in France would still be alive today if they had received a vaccine. And health workers have been among those most exposed, and infected.Some protesters said they would eventually consent to getting the shots, if given no choice, but that they would resent it. Others said they would attempt to buy fake vaccine certificates. French police have arrested several people suspected of trafficking fake virus certificates on social media, where the documents can fetch several hundred euros (dollars) each.A majority of French adults have been fully vaccinated, and millions more have lined up for jabs in the past two weeks. For all the high-profile protests, polls indicate that overall French vaccine hesitancy has ebbed in recent months and that most people support the vaccine mandate for health care workers.Many want the government to go even further. Two recent polls indicated that a majority of the French support a coronavirus vaccine mandate for everyone.———Nicolas Garriga and Boubkar Benzebat in Paris contributed.———Follow all AP stories on the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.

French lawmakers adopt compromise climate bill amid protests

French lawmakers adopt compromise climate bill amid protests

France’s parliament has approved a compromise climate bill that’s intended to transform travel, housing and industryBy CONSTANTIN GOUVY Associated PressJuly 20, 2021, 6:32 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articlePARIS — France’s parliament on Tuesday approved a compromise climate bill that was intended to transform travel, housing and industry but which environmental activists said doesn’t go fast or far enough to slash the country’s carbon emissions.Championed by President Emmanuel Macron, the legislation touches on issues central to French culture and the economy, including farming, historical buildings and the aviation and motor vehicle industries.Months of wrangling in both houses of parliament resulted in the watering down of several provisions, but the compromise version easily passed in both the Senate and the National Assembly.The final draft included measures to encourage cleaner cars and phase out the most-polluting vehicles; aid for the renovation of energy-inefficient homes and other buildings; and a ban on domestic flights under two and a half hours on routes that can be traveled by train.Environmental activists accuse Macron, who has taken a strong global stance on climate issues, of failing to live up to his promises at home.The head of Greenpeace France, Jean-Francois Julliard, stood under a sign reading “Climate law: botched job” as he addressed a small group of protesters ahead of the vote outside the National Assembly.“The law is not up to the task,” Julliard said. “It falls short of introducing ecology into the daily lives of the population….We will have to continue to disobey, protest and file legal cases.”A panel of 150 citizens convened by Macron worked for months to produce recommendations for the legislation, but critics say the president weakened their proposals. And conservative and some other lawmakers amended several measures once the bill reached parliament.Macron supported a European Union plan announced last week to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared with 1990 levels. The protesters gathered Tuesday said the bill won’t allow France to meet the target.“The law is completely unambitious,” school teacher Aurelie Lilith, 35, a member of both Greenpeace France and Extinction Rebellion. She said protests must continue “to draw attention to what scientists are saying about climate change.”Lilith and others mentioned the floods that killed at least 196 people in Germany and Belgium last week, along with the drought and wildfires in the western United States, as examples of the consequences of failing to take global warming seriously.———Angela Charlton in Paris contributed.

France: Thousands protest against vaccination, COVID passes

France: Thousands protest against vaccination, COVID passes

PARIS — Over 100,000 people protested across France on Saturday against the government’s latest measures to push people to get vaccinated and curb rising infections by the delta variant of the coronavirus.In Paris, separate protest marches by the far-right and the far-left wound through different parts of the city. Demonstrations were also held in Strasbourg in the east, Lille in the north, Montpellier in the south and elsewhere.Thousands of people answered calls to take to the streets by Florian Philippot, a fringe far-right politician and former right hand of Marine Le Pen who announced earlier this month that he would run in the 2022 presidential election. Gathered a stone’s throw away from the Louvre Museum, protesters chanted “Macron, clear off!”, “Freedom,” and banged metal spoons on saucepans.While Philippot has organized small but regular protests against the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, Saturday’s demonstration drew a larger and more diverse crowd of people broadly disaffected with politics: yellow vest activists angry over perceived economic injustice, far-right supporters, medical staff and royalists.They denounced the government’s decision on Monday to make vaccines compulsory for all health care workers, and to require a “health pass” proving people are fully vaccinated, have recently tested negative or recovered from the virus in order to access restaurants and other public venues. President Emmanuel Macron’s government is presenting a draft law Monday to enshrine the measures.“I will never get vaccinated,” Bruno Auquier, a 53-year-old town councilor who lives on the outskirts of Paris. “People need to wake up,” he said, questioning the safety of the vaccine.While France already requires several vaccinations to enter public school, Auquier pledged to take his two children out of school if the coronavirus vaccine became mandatory. “These new measures are the last straw,” Auquier said.The government warned of the continued spread of the delta variant, which authorities fear could again put pressure on hospitals if not enough people are vaccinated against the virus. The pandemic has cost France more than 111,000 lives and deeply damaged the economy.During a visit to a pop-up vaccination center in the southwest, Prime Minister Jean Castex exhorted the French to stick together in order to overcome the crisis.“There is only one solution: vaccination,” he said, stressing it “protects us, and will make us freer.”At the Paris protest, a manual worker in his sixties expressed bitterness about jobs in his sector sent offshore. A 24-year-old royalist said he was there to demand “the return of God and the King.”Lucien, a 28-year-old retail shop manager, said he wasn’t anti-vaccine, but thought that everyone should be able to do as they please with their own body. “The government is going too far,” he said. His 26-year-old friend Elise said, “I am vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus, and polio. But the COVID vaccine is just too experimental.”While a majority of French health care workers have had at least one vaccine dose, some are resisting the government’s decision to make vaccination compulsory for all staff in medical facilities.At Saturday’s Paris protest, a 39-year-old green party supporter and hospital laboratory worker said she might resort to buying a fake vaccination certificate to avoid losing her job. A health care worker dressed as the Statue of Liberty called it “act of violence” to force people to get vaccinated.In Montpellier, more than 1,000 people marched to the train station, chanting “Liberty!” and carrying signs reading “Our kids aren’t Guinea pigs.” Security officials closed the main entrance to travelers and a dozen police officers took posts in front.The Interior Ministry said 114,000 people took part in protests nationwide.Overnight on Friday, vandals ransacked a vaccination center in the southeast. Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin asked prefects and police chiefs to reinforce security for elected officials, after several complained they had received threats in recent days over the latest anti-COVID measures.Vaccine hesitancy is considered widespread in France, though appears to have faded somewhat as 36 million French people have gotten coronavirus vaccine doses in recent months. Millions more have gotten injected or signed up for vaccinations since Monday’s announcement.French health care workers have until Sept. 15 to get vaccinated. The requirement for COVID passes for all restaurants, bars, hospitals, shopping malls, trains, planes and other venues is being introduced in stages starting Wednesday.Meanwhile, the French government announced tightened border controls starting Sunday, but also said it would allow in travelers from anywhere in the world who have been fully vaccinated.That now includes people who received AstraZeneca’s Indian-manufactured vaccine. The move came after a global outcry over the fact that the European Union’s COVID-19 certificate only recognizes AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured in Europe.———Elaine Ganley in Montpellier and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed.———Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at:https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemichttps://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccinehttps://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

France: Thousands protest against vaccination, COVID passes

France: Thousands protest against vaccination, COVID passes

PARIS — Over 100,000 people protested across France on Saturday against the government’s latest measures to push people to get vaccinated and curb rising infections by the delta variant of the coronavirus.In Paris, separate protest marches by the far-right and the far-left wound through different parts of the city. Demonstrations were also held in Strasbourg in the east, Lille in the north, Montpellier in the south and elsewhere.Thousands of people answered calls to take to the streets by Florian Philippot, a fringe far-right politician and former right hand of Marine Le Pen who announced earlier this month that he would run in the 2022 presidential election. Gathered a stone’s throw away from the Louvre Museum, protesters chanted “Macron, clear off!”, “Freedom,” and banged metal spoons on saucepans.While Philippot has organized small but regular protests against the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, Saturday’s demonstration drew a larger and more diverse crowd of people broadly disaffected with politics: yellow vest activists angry over perceived economic injustice, far-right supporters, medical staff and royalists.They denounced the government’s decision on Monday to make vaccines compulsory for all health care workers, and to require a “health pass” proving people are fully vaccinated, have recently tested negative or recovered from the virus in order to access restaurants and other public venues. President Emmanuel Macron’s government is presenting a draft law Monday to enshrine the measures.“I will never get vaccinated,” Bruno Auquier, a 53-year-old town councilor who lives on the outskirts of Paris. “People need to wake up,” he said, questioning the safety of the vaccine.While France already requires several vaccinations to enter public school, Auquier pledged to take his two children out of school if the coronavirus vaccine became mandatory. “These new measures are the last straw,” Auquier said.The government warned of the continued spread of the delta variant, which authorities fear could again put pressure on hospitals if not enough people are vaccinated against the virus. The pandemic has cost France more than 111,000 lives and deeply damaged the economy.During a visit to a pop-up vaccination center in the southwest, Prime Minister Jean Castex exhorted the French to stick together in order to overcome the crisis.“There is only one solution: vaccination,” he said, stressing it “protects us, and will make us freer.”At the Paris protest, a manual worker in his sixties expressed bitterness about jobs in his sector sent offshore. A 24-year-old royalist said he was there to demand “the return of God and the King.”Lucien, a 28-year-old retail shop manager, said he wasn’t anti-vaccine, but thought that everyone should be able to do as they please with their own body. “The government is going too far,” he said. His 26-year-old friend Elise said, “I am vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus, and polio. But the COVID vaccine is just too experimental.”While a majority of French health care workers have had at least one vaccine dose, some are resisting the government’s decision to make vaccination compulsory for all staff in medical facilities.At Saturday’s Paris protest, a 39-year-old green party supporter and hospital laboratory worker said she might resort to buying a fake vaccination certificate to avoid losing her job. A health care worker dressed as the Statue of Liberty called it “act of violence” to force people to get vaccinated.In Montpellier, more than 1,000 people marched to the train station, chanting “Liberty!” and carrying signs reading “Our kids aren’t Guinea pigs.” Security officials closed the main entrance to travelers and a dozen police officers took posts in front.The Interior Ministry said 114,000 people took part in protests nationwide.Overnight on Friday, vandals ransacked a vaccination center in the southeast. Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin asked prefects and police chiefs to reinforce security for elected officials, after several complained they had received threats in recent days over the latest anti-COVID measures.Vaccine hesitancy is considered widespread in France, though appears to have faded somewhat as 36 million French people have gotten coronavirus vaccine doses in recent months. Millions more have gotten injected or signed up for vaccinations since Monday’s announcement.French health care workers have until Sept. 15 to get vaccinated. The requirement for COVID passes for all restaurants, bars, hospitals, shopping malls, trains, planes and other venues is being introduced in stages starting Wednesday.Meanwhile, the French government announced tightened border controls starting Sunday, but also said it would allow in travelers from anywhere in the world who have been fully vaccinated.That now includes people who received AstraZeneca’s Indian-manufactured vaccine. The move came after a global outcry over the fact that the European Union’s COVID-19 certificate only recognizes AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured in Europe.———Elaine Ganley in Montpellier and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed.———Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at:https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemichttps://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccinehttps://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

We’re not virus police, French cafes say of new COVID pass

We’re not virus police, French cafes say of new COVID pass

French restaurant staff are worried that new mandatory COVID passes will turn them into virus police instead of purveyors of culinary pleasuresBy CONSTANTIN GOUVY Associated PressJuly 15, 2021, 10:33 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articlePARIS — French restaurant owners and workers are as worried as anyone about the coronavirus — but they’re also concerned that new mandatory COVID passes will turn them into virus police instead of purveyors of culinary pleasures.Starting next month, all diners in France must show a pass proving they’re fully vaccinated, or recently tested negative or recovered from the virus. For restaurants – seen as the lifeblood of France — the new rule presents yet another headache after a punishing pandemic.“Our job used to be to make sure that our guests had a great time while they were with us. Now, we spend our time reprimanding them. We weren’t trained for this,” said Louis le Mahieu, manager of the Parisian restaurant Les Bancs Publics.Les Bancs Publics sits on a street corner on the canal that wends through northeast Paris, a neighborhood popular with young people who gather in its many cafes or on the banks of the canal, drinking and listening to music. Vivid street art livens the neighborhood, and there is a pop-up vaccination space nearby, next to Paris Plage, the city’s yearly summer urban beach project.Like other restaurants in the bustling area, Le Bancs Publics is already struggling to respect France’s oft-changing virus rules. It’s one of 1,000 venues shut down for not respecting limits on visitors since French restaurants reopened in May for the first time in nearly seven months. So its brightly colored metal shutters are drawn and no diners are in sight.Cafe and bar owners worry they’ll face more such trouble when the COVID pass becomes obligatory.A draft law preparing the COVID pass requirement for restaurants, shopping malls, hospitals, trains and planes foresees fines of 45,000 euros ($53,250) for violations – which could be fatal to small businesses that are already struggling economically after pandemic losses.For Gauthier Max, owner of nearby Mama Kin, restaurants and bars are no longer places of leisure but have become spaces of constraints and restrictions. “We’ve effectively become policemen,” he said.A diverse crowd of customers would usually be standing outside Mama Kin with drinks and cigarettes and socializing inside, but it too was shut down temporarily this week for virus violations.A collective of angry restaurant owners is scheduled to meet Thursday with the area police chief to discuss the virus challenges and try to find solutions, Max said.Unions have pushed back at the new pass requirement, as did protesters at demonstrations in Paris and other cities around France on Wednesday. Tourists are also confused about how they can get the COVID passes before they come into effect next month; the government promises answers soon.Citing resurgent infections across the country, President Emmanuel Macron and his government say the COVID passes are the only way to keep hospitals from getting overwhelmed again – and to avoid tougher measures like new lockdowns.With health rules changing rapidly, many restaurant owners said they struggle to keep track. Mahieu said even police officers he asks on the street don’t always know the latest regulations.He said he would observe the new health rules, but warned they could incur new costs and lower returns.“We’ll likely need one employee to be allocated to it full-time, and a security guard to manage disgruntled people whom we’ll have to turn away,” he told The Associated Press. “We’ll be stuck between a rock and a hard place.”Many restaurant owners understand the need for virus control, and want to avoid even tougher measures.“I’m very pro-vaccine and find the health pass to be a good idea and a completely reasonable measure. Other vaccines are mandatory in France today,” said Christine Boudon, owner of La Fontaine de Mars near the Eiffel Tower, one of Paris’ oldest restaurants. “However, it may be difficult for us to put in place. Checking clients’ health passes is a little bit akin to police work. Only the most senior staff here will be able to carry out this task.”———Angela Charlton in Paris contributed.————Follow all AP coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic