President Emmanuel Macron’s volte-face on mandatory vaccination puts French human rights on par with Saudi Arabia
PARIS — “I have said it, I will say it again: the vaccine will not be compulsory,” French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted on Dec. 27, 2020.
In an interview on April 24, he reiterated: “The health pass will never be a right of access that differentiates the French. It should not be compulsory to access places of everyday life such as restaurants, theaters and cinemas, or to visit friends.”
Fast-forward to July 12. In a televised address to the nation, Macron announced the extension of the “health pass,” consisting of a government generated QR code, to everyday activities, beginning on July 21. Unless someone wants to pay out of pocket for antigenic or PCR tests every 48 hours to access everyday venues with 50 or more people, including restaurants, bars, cinemas, gyms, stores, and transit, vaccination will soon become the only means of access.
President Macron didn’t mince words regarding his intent. “Vaccination is not immediately compulsory for everyone,” he said. “But we will extend the health pass as much as possible to encourage as many of you as possible to go for the vaccination.” He then added: “Depending on how the situation evolves, we will no doubt have to ask ourselves the question of compulsory vaccination for all French people.” But the measures that he just announced, which will no doubt be rubber stamped by the lapdog parliamentary majority of Macron’s own party, create a sanitary apartheid that marginalizes the unvaccinated so drastically that it amounts to vaccination coercion.
In other words, if you’re at least 12 years old and want to live any semblance of a normal life, you’ll have to succumb to it. And if you can’t afford to get tested at a pharmacy every 48 hours at your own expense in lieu of vaccination in order to get the government QR code, you’re also going to be stuck. “This fall, the famous PCR tests will be paid, unless prescribed by a doctor, in order to encourage vaccination rather than the multiplication of tests,” Macron said.
Proof of recovery from COVID-19 in the form of a positive PCR test is also accepted for health pass purposes, but only for six months, after which you’ll have to succumb to vaccination or pay for tests every two days.
Healthcare workers will have to take the vaccine or lose their jobs, with the list of other professionals forced to take the jab largely expected to be extended.
And for those who think they will be left alone after taking two doses of the vaccine, think again. You’re already back up to bat. Macron has started nagging about a third dose of the vaccine starting in September.
It’s all so preposterous, as is the nerve of referring to any of this as a choice when it’s effectively mandatory vaccination — something that now puts France on par with such beacons of human rights as Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.
The discrepancy between the current COVID-19 statistics and the severity of these measures is stunning. While the number of cases has increased in recent days, overall case numbers are still relatively low, as are the number of hospitalizations and deaths. If the vulnerable and those with pre-existing conditions most likely to land them in the hospital with COVID are now protected, then why force a medical procedure onto healthy people? And if they’re not protected, why not start there rather than harass the entire population to undergo a medical procedure in which the risk — particularly in the long run for healthy people — may outweigh the benefit? Exactly how many of these jabs will people be forced to take over the course of a lifetime — not for personal health reasons but just to have access to everyday life?
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, French citizens spilled into the streets every Saturday for well over a year as the Yellow Vest movement protested a proposed carbon tax increase to the price of gas by a few cents per liter.
Now that the French are being denied autonomy over their bodies and personal choice for a vaccine on which no one has enough information on any long-term effects, due to its newness, will anyone care to take to the streets to defend their most basic rights and freedoms?
Highly unlikely. Instead, the French flocked like sheep to a vaccination appointment website at a reported rate of 17,000 to 20,000 per minute. Clearly, it’s fear of losing access to society that’s driving these appointments rather than any health-related appeal to reason.
And it’s the French on the political left who are showing their true colors during this crisis. They are complicit in permitting the erosion of workers’ rights when faced with a direct threat from the government to their livelihood and a grotesque violation of their personal autonomy. If France has just taken a hard turn into sanitary dictatorship territory, it’s because its citizens are either sleepwalking into this dystopia or hiding under the bed.
Rachel Marsden is a Creators Syndicate columnist.