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COVID: compulsory vaccination is back in the debates

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Faced with the strong recovery of COVID and the arrival of the Omicron variant, should vaccination be made compulsory? Several countries, including Germany, are considering this measure, long considered excessive and still far from unanimous for ethical and practical reasons.

“A discussion (…) must take place” on compulsory vaccination in the European Union, said Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, on Wednesday.

These words mark a turning point. Since the arrival of anti-Covid vaccines almost a year ago, very few countries, including Indonesia and Turkmenistan, have chosen to impose them unreservedly on their populations.

Many, like France, have favored the implementation of a health pass, an already restrictive measure that requires being vaccinated or tested negatively for COVID to access various places such as restaurants. Another constraint often retained, compulsory vaccination for particular categories such as caregivers.

But in recent days, several countries, especially European, have announced their intention to take the step of a frank and total obligation. This is the case for Austria, from early 2022, and Germany, where the measure is on the program of the future government.

“Too many people have not been vaccinated,” said the Social Democrat Olaf Scholz on Tuesday, who will succeed Angela Merkel next week and yet opposed compulsory vaccination during the election campaign.

What has changed the situation? The arrival in Europe of a new particularly strong wave of contaminations, which first struck the countries of the East, spread to Germany and Austria, then now affects other countries such as France. France.

States are also worried about the arrival of the Omicron variant, identified a few days ago and whose genetic profile gives rise to fears of a stronger resistance to immunity, even if its real contagiousness is still a mystery.

In South Africa, where this variant has been identified, debates are also lively on compulsory vaccination, explicitly envisaged by President Cyril Ramaphosa again after having held opposing positions for a long time.

These different countries are, however, in contrasting vaccination situations. Three quarters of South Africans are not vaccinated, while less than a third of Germans are.

Is the German choice justified, however, in order to convince the last recalcitrant? The question arises all the more in a country like France, where the unvaccinated represent only a quarter of the population and a tenth of eligible people.

But the prospect does not convince for the moment neither the government – the Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, said Wednesday to privilege a strategy “without obligation if possible” – nor the scientific authorities.

“The vast majority of large democracies have not entered into the vaccination obligation,” said Jean-François Delfraissy, President of the Scientific Council, responsible for helping the French government face the health crisis, on Wednesday.

Professor Delfraissy, who was speaking to deputies, expressed strong skepticism for reasons of principle as well as of practical application.

On the foreground, “of course that health (…) is an essential element, but should we be deprived all the same of a certain form of freedom?”, He asked himself.

On the second level, “how do we control it?” Asked Professor Delfraissy, emphasizing the case of unvaccinated elderly people, a priori the most at risk of severe forms of COVID-19.

“When you have a little grandma who tells you that she does not want to be vaccinated (…), do you think that we will send the gendarmes?”, He insisted.

In France, however, compulsory vaccination is on the way to becoming a reality in a territory very far from the metropolis, New Caledonia, where it must come into force on January 1, 2022.

Here again, however, the question of how to put it into practice already arises. Except for certain categories – caregivers, teachers, people at risk of serious form … – no fine is foreseen.

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