Emmanuel Macron can be criticized for many things, but not for having changed his discourse on vaccination. If we look at the evolution of the pandemic in France, it makes every sense to want to do it mandatory for health workers and workers who are in contact with vulnerable citizens. The Elysee advisers had been warning for some time that the level of immunization of this group was too low. A month ago, two vaccinated elderly people died in a residence in the south of France where some of the staff had not wanted to be immunized.
Thinking about next year’s elections, Macron tries his best not to appear authoritarian. For months he has insisted that it is “better to convince than to impose.” But pedagogy has hardly served him. A part of the French population that is much more difficult to classify has been added to the usual anti-vaccines, which the government already gave up for lost. There are those who are vaccinated against measles or tuberculosis, for example, but not against covid-19. They say they distrust the speed with which this time the drug companies have obtained the remedy, and are afraid of getting into the body something that they do not know what it is. By balancing their misgivings and the common good, the former weighs more for them.
Then there are those who shamelessly acknowledge that they are waiting for their fellow citizens to be vaccinated so that group immunity is generated. The worst thing is that many of these free riders or stowaways from the vaccine are not seen coming. They are not necessarily anti-establishment nor do they vote for the extreme left or the extreme right. Many have higher education and access to quality information. They are simply selfish. Antigen tests have been carried out by the public health system every time, for example, they wanted to go to a concert.
Precisely for this reason, in addition to taking coercive measures with the health workers, the Elysee has tightened the conditions of the COVID certificate for the rest of the French and tourists. In a few days it will be necessary to be vaccinated or have a negative result to enter cinemas, have a drink on a terrace, or travel by train, among other things. In autumn, PCRs will be paid. Missing doses will remain optional, but increasingly cumbersome.
It is not yet known whether Macron will pay a political price for moving from recommendation to demand. Other countries such as Italy, Greece and the United Kingdom have taken a similar path. We will see debates in parliaments and demonstrations in the streets. And a recurring question will be raised again in this pandemic that for some is uncomfortable, but that is the basis of democracy: what do we do with the gray area between freedom and solidarity.