On Wednesday, the French government faced criticism over the slow development of its efforts to vaccinate people against Covid-19, a problem exacerbated by the high levels of public skepticism surrounding the campaign.
On Sunday, France joined several other EU countries to begin vaccinations with the Pfizer-BioNTech jab and focused its initial efforts on elderly residents in nursing homes.
But in the first three days of the campaign, less than 100 people have been given the job – compared to 42,000 so far in Germany – which raises questions about the government’s cautious way of vaccinating a largely skeptical population.
France’s strategy “does not fit in such a dangerous situation”, said Axel Kahn, a prominent geneticist who leads the National League against Cancer, Radio 1 in Europe.
Kahn said the government should try to persuade people who hesitate to inoculate with “openness and enthusiasm”.
“We must protect the French people and those who are vulnerable.”
He also demanded that health workers be moved to the top of the queue for jab over the elderly.
The UK, which started vaccinating with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine three weeks before the EU, has already vaccinated hundreds of thousands of people, while over a million have been vaccinated in the United States.
Philippe Juvin, head of the emergency services at the Georges Pompidou Hospital in Paris, said there did not appear to be a national “vaccine strategy” in France.
“As an individual, I would like to be vaccinated, set a good example and show people that we do not die from the vaccine, we die from Covid. And when we do not die, we get serious forms that are very inactivating,” he told CNews TV channel.
A survey of vaccine consent conducted by Ipsos Global Advisor in collaboration with the World Economic Forum showed the obstacles the government faces in achieving mass immunity.
It showed that only 40 percent of French people want the vaccine.
This places France far behind other developed countries such as the United Kingdom at 77 percent and the United States at 69 percent.
Speaking on France 2 television late Tuesday, Health Minister Olivier Veran defended the more measured speed in France, saying officials took the time to win people over to the idea of being vaccinated.
“It takes a little more time to get started,” he said, adding that he expected to catch up with the rest of the world by the end of January.
A dismissive criticism on social media said an official from the Ministry of Health: “We have not committed a 100-meter sprint but a marathon.”
In tweets on Sunday welcoming vaccine developments, President Emmanuel Macron had hinted at widespread vaccine skepticism in France.
He said “reason and science must guide us” in the homeland of Louis Pasteur, the 19th-century scientist who discovered the principles of vaccination.
“The vaccine is not mandatory. Trust our researchers and doctors,” says Macron.