Vaccines are now compulsory for medical care, home care and emergency workers in France, and Wednesday is the deadline for such staff to have had at least one shot. Failing that, they face having pay suspended or not being able to work. But a top court has forbidden staff to be fired outright.
But since some hospitals are already facing strains after a year and half of fighting the pandemic and catching up on other treatments, some fear staff shortages could spell disaster.
“We are raising the alarm … if you insist on implementing this measure your beds will be closed, thus reducing chances (of survival) for a number of patients,” said Christophe Prudhomme, emergency room doctor and CGT union member, at a protest outside the Health Ministry on Tuesday.
The government health authority said Tuesday that 300,000 health workers remained unvaccinated.
Firms and employers failing to verify the vaccination statuses of their staff are liable for a 135 euro ($160) fine that can rise to 3,750 euros ($4,430) for repeated failure.
Amid the population at large, about 87% of adults have received at least one jab and 83% are fully vaccinated in France.
“I am not a revolutionary, I am just afraid and we are thousands in this situation. I want them to listen to us and sit and talk around a table,” said Rachid Ouchem, a medical-psychological assistant at a hospital in Plaisir west of Paris who doesn’t want to be vaccinated and is facing suspension.
“We can’t decide ourselves, we have doubts,” he told The Associated Press. “We had politicians saying one thing and its opposite.”
Scientists note that the vaccines used in France were tested widely and the data shared publicly. Worldwide, 5.7 billion coronavirus vaccine doses have been administered so far, providing a exceptionally broad overview of vaccines’ impact on people’s health.
The vaccine mandate and France’s “health pass” system required for restaurants and other venues have prompted two months of weekly protests by far-right activists and some other groups. Another Paris protest is planned Wednesday.
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