“Those who deliberately distilled fear are more responsible than the unvaccinated in general”

A total of 7.8% of people eligible for vaccination have not received a single dose of coronavirus vaccine in France, according to
Covidtracker website. While France is running an average of 250,000 cases per day, this minority, in the midst of the fifth wave, is accused of largely contributing to the saturation of hospitals. And every day, the comments against the non-vaccinated are becoming more virulent. In a forum, caregivers thus called not to resuscitate them, when a major part of the population would be,
according to an Ifop poll, favorable to their non-support. As for Emmanuel Macron, he said last week that he “wanted to piss them off”. A “violent” and counterproductive controversy, according to Hélène Rossinot. For 20 minutes, the public health doctor returns to the sensitive issue of non-vaccination which, in recent days, has taken a new turn, that of “deleterious and harmful debate”.

In France, the vaccine is free and available in large quantities. Yet is there an inequality in relation to vaccination?

Free does not make fair. People in great precariousness, for example migrants or the homeless, are totally excluded from the healthcare system, whether it is free or not. For these people, it is important to continue a policy of “going towards” [avec des maraudes] and bring the vaccine directly to them. It should also be understood that the question of vaccination is not at all a priority for the most precarious classes, unlike the difficulty of the work, the complicated schedules, etc. There is also social insecurity, significant isolation of part of the population. As for the healthcare network, it is not fair throughout the territory and the French vaccination campaign relies heavily on the Internet, which can be totally anachronistic for some people. Finally, we must think about the unequal access to information or science. Still, we cannot put all the non-vaccinated in these boxes, many are very cultured and informed. Many are in a voluntary dynamic of alternative medicine or relationship to nature, and are therefore against vaccination.

Isn’t it easy to put de facto “non-vaccinated” and “antivax” in the same bag? In other words, are the unvaccinated really antivax?

This assimilation is indeed much too simplistic and it is never a good idea to generalize, a fortiori in an already tense social climate. There are indeed real antivax, which can be found in the circle of alternative medicine or naturopaths, for example, and which are against ALL vaccines. But there are those who just reject the Covid vaccine. A vaccine that has been highly politicized. In this circle, we find political opponents, militants of certain radical parties and anti-systems. Finally, there are those non-vaccinated people who believe that they are at no risk from the disease and who are convinced that they do not need a vaccine. There remain the victims of disinformation, the most numerous. These are the unvaccinated who are afraid of adverse effects

You mention an overly politicized anti-Covid vaccine…

Yes, particularly in France because of the upcoming presidential election. We saw it in Germany: the country found itself paralyzed on the issue of health measures before its elections. In France, during the first months of the coronavirus epidemic, sacred union and political silence gave way to science. This was salutary but very quickly crumbled. Today, the politicians of all parties express their point of view on the crisis and this, with a logic that is much more political than health.

Emmanuel Macron speaks of “pissing off the non-vaccinated”, in forums caregivers call not necessarily to resuscitate them, etc. The discourse against the unvaccinated is becoming extreme…

Beware of all extremes. Everyone is on edge. After two years of an unprecedented situation, people can’t take it anymore, the caregivers are exhausted, the debates are tense. As a caregiver, you receive dozens or even hundreds of death threats and the temptation is strong to react with the same violence. But we must avoid jumping at each other’s throats and not participate in a deleterious and harmful debate. And above all not to further divide society.

Behind Emmanuel Macron’s words, there is the desire to push for vaccination. A strategy that worked for the health pass, with first-time injection records after the announcement of its creation…

Inevitably, the health pass – and soon vaccine – works on people who did not see the usefulness of the vaccine or thought they were not very concerned by vaccination, because it gave the vaccine an importance and a utility. But these measures are even more aimed at antivax or those who are afraid of the vaccine and who are ready to give up their social life if they are forced to do so. This can reinforce an already dangerous divide and further isolate the unvaccinated. The pass remains a good solution to access mass vaccination, but it will always hit a glass ceiling if it is perceived as a punishment and will be unproductive in the long term.

More than the non-vaccinated, shouldn’t we “fuck” the disinformators and those who spread “fake news”?

Those who intentionally distilled the fear are more responsible than the unvaccinated in general. The unvaccinated are much more often victims than culprits. Freedom of information exists, and it is a good thing, so it is difficult to directly punish disinformants. Failing to silence them, however, there are ways to make them a little less harmful. We can avoid giving them political weight by visiting them, auditioning them or inviting them to TV shows. The media have to sort out their guests and journalists should work more on their subject in order to be able to take up misinformation who strike scientific misinterpretations. As for us, the caregivers, we are very far from being innocent. There is a hell of a slew of doctors, beyond the set disinformators, who tell “fake news” to their patients. The Order of Physicians has not correctly played its role of regularly and correctly informing doctors or has not sufficiently punished caregivers who have cheerfully trampled on our ethics. There have been many complaints but, so far, extremely few write-offs.

Prime Minister Jean Castex had announced that one could not be contaminated with two doses, which is false. By making these kinds of mistakes, didn’t the executive also give credit to antivax?

Politicians presented the vaccine as the miracle solution. Ditto with confinements and epidemic waves: politicians have each time hoped or promised publicly that it was the last time. It wasn’t necessarily a lie, but an overconfidence. Here too we must do our my culpa. Journalists, doctors or politicians have all lacked prudence when delivering information. It must nevertheless be recognized that the politicians are those who have been the longest to adopt a more nuanced discourse.

There is a hell of a slew of doctors, beyond the set disinformators, who tell “fake news” to their patients.

We must mention here the need for education in science. We collectively find it very difficult to admit not knowing or to see information evolve. When doctors or journalists express a point of view, then the reverse a few months later, it is not necessarily that they have changed their opinion but that the data has changed. The pandemic remains a new fact, we must accept it. And also accept that we move forward by groping. All the more reason for politicians to use the conditional, when the crisis has only worsened the population’s mistrust of the authorities, whether political or health.

The third dose has raised a lot of scepticism, especially among young people, and the executive is already talking about a fourth dose… Could those convinced of vaccination get tired and rally the unvaccinated?

It’s possible. The two doses had already been oversold as the miracle solution that would solve all the problems. And, after two years of crisis, patience is crumbling. It will therefore be necessary to demonstrate a great deal of education if an additional dose of vaccine is requested. Politicians like health authorities would benefit from redoing question-and-answer sessions to explain why it would be necessary. Not to mention that the prolongation of the crisis could still undermine the confidence and the adhesion of the French. If “all constraints” remains the only policy, we run the risk of creating a new branch of the unvaccinated. Still, the crisis is not over and we cannot afford to lose other people.

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