France Opts For A Degree Of Coercion To Get Its People Vaccinated
Not a single person hospitalized in Los Angeles right now is fully vaccinated-- not one. Today, the L.A. Times reported that "The COVID-19 curve in the U.S. is rising again after months of decline, with the number of new cases per day doubling over the past three weeks, driven by the fast-spreading Delta variant, lagging vaccination rates and Fourth of July gatherings."
Let's start by clicking on the CNN New Day tweet below the Jonathan Bernstein chunk. It's a report on the demented right wing effort to undermine vaccination and it's a very important piece. Just click to view it. Early this morning, Jonathan Bernstein, writing for Bloomberg, explained why Republicans are turning against vaccines. "Some," he wrote, "think it’s a simple effort to ruin the nation while a Democrat is in the White House. I’m skeptical of that answer. Not because I have great confidence in the ethics of any set of politicians, but because for the most part, the anti-vaccination folks are the same people who turned against public safety measures before the vaccines-- and before Joe Biden was president. So I have four answers. The first is simple: Republican-aligned media features many anti-vaccine hosts, and Republican politicians want to appear on Fox News and other Republican-aligned TV and radio outlets. The second is also simple: Biden says vaccinations are good, so some Republicans are going to say the opposite. The third answer? Read what Adam Serwer has to say in his new book, The Cruelty is the Point. My fourth answer is a bit more complicated. It has to do with internal Republican dynamics with the True Conservative game."
It works like this. A fringe group of the party seeks to differentiate itself from the mainstream. To do that, its members set out to prove that they are the True Conservatives and everyone else is a wishy-washy Republican in Name Only at best, and a collaborating liberal at worst. However, by now the mainstream of the party has become so conservative that there are no easy moves to make that involve pushing one or another policy preference. Notice that the Democrats are different on this score, even though their mainstream has become quite liberal. There are still plenty of policy moves available to Bernie Sanders in the Senate or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the House of Representatives to differentiate them from the rest of their caucuses. Not only does there appear to be less room for fringe Republicans to find ground, but the truth is that few of them are willing to put in the work to find real policy differences.
There’s another problem for the fringe, which is that mainstream conservative Republican politicians are paranoid about failing litmus tests, getting portrayed as moderates or worse, and then getting defeated in primary elections. Again, for a variety of reasons, it’s different on the Democratic side, where quite a few mainstream liberals are happy to have someone out there making them look moderate.
What is available to those wishing to differentiate themselves from mainstream conservatives are nonsense and nihilism. Come up with something crazy enough, or destructive (including self-destructive) enough, and maybe the bulk of the party won’t follow them, allowing them to “win” the True Conservative game. This has been going on for some time, with partisan polarization turning the party more and more conservative, and removing first the liberal Republicans and then the moderates and eventually anyone but the very conservative, forcing the fringers to find more and more dubious ways to prove that they and only they are True.
The key point here is that there is no counter move available to the rest of the party. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer can say that they oppose such-and-such a policy because they are liberals, not socialists. There’s no parallel move for the Republican congressional leaders, Kevin McCarthy in the House or Mitch McConnell in the Senate. That doesn’t mean that mainstream conservatives always go along, but within the norms of the party they’re not allowed to call anyone too conservative, let alone any more negative characterization.
I can’t prove that this extremely dysfunctional dynamic is what makes anti-vaccine comments so common among Republicans right now, and it probably isn’t the entire story. But it fits with what’s happening. It fits with opposition to vaccines, and to masks and other public health measures. It fits with cutting off expanded unemployment insurance in Republican states, where governors were afraid to challenge True Conservatives who urged it. It fits with worship of Donald Trump.
Among bigger countries, the U.S. has the second worst numbers of COVID cases per million inhabitants, Sweden having the worst stats in my list of a baker's dozen countries:
Sweden- 108,108 cases per million residents
USA- 107,557 cases per million residents
Argentina- 102,647 cases per million residents
Netherlands- 101,590 cases per million residents
Belgium- 94,234 ases per million residents
Israel- 90,878 cases per million residents
Portugal- 89,750 cases per million residents
Brazil- 89,448 cases per million residents
France- 88,974 cases per million residents
Colombia- 88,417 cases per million residents
Spain- 85,841 cases per million residents
Poland- 76,208 cases per million residents
UK- 76,062 cases per million residents
None of these countries have it as bad as these dozen badly governed U.S. states:
North Dakota- 145,525 per million residents
Rhode Island- 144,278 cases per million residents
South Dakota- 140,892 cases per million residents
Utah- 131,220 cases per million residents
Iowa- 128,555 cases per million residents
Tennessee- 127,537 cases per million residents
Arizona- 123,910 cases per million residents
Arkansas- 118,944 cases per million residents
Oklahoma- 116,729 cases per million residents
Wisconsin- 116,608 cases per million residents
South Carolina- 116,589 cases per million residents
Nebraska- 116,561 cases per million residents
Ron DeSantis' Florida rarely reports its numbers any longer. Yesterday it did and the state most deeply living in pandemic-denial-- compliments of a sociopath governor-- led the nation in new cases again (5,095)... and also has more cases per million than any of the countries listed above-- 112,768. Also on the highway to hell: Missouri (2,276 today, fourth worst in the country-- and worst, by far, per capita).
French President Emmanuel Macron, thinking about an impending reelection campaign, did something yesterday that would be almost unimaginable here. He announced that COVID-passes are coming to France-- for public transportation, restaurants, shopping malls, etc. No vaccinations, no normal life. 1.3 million French residents immediately signed up to get vaccinated-- in one day! Can you imagine an American politician with that kind of intestinal fortitude? I can't.
Most of the people signing up yesterday were under 35 years old. The Associated Press reported that "Some bristled at President Emmanuel Macron’s admonition to 'get vaccinated!' immediately, but many people signed up for shots, accepting that getting injected was the only way to return to some semblance of pre-pandemic life."
Macron said vaccination would be obligatory for all health care workers by Sept. 15, and he held out the possibility of extending the requirement to others. Around 41% of the French population has been fully vaccinated, though the pace of shots being delivered has waned as summer vacations approached.
Government spokesman Attal insisted the vaccine mandate wasn’t meant to “stigmatize” reluctant health workers but to limit risks to the vulnerable populations they care for.
Some residents said the government’s vaccine push makes them feel safer. At a vaccine center Tuesday in Versailles, finance worker Thibault Razafinarivo, 26, said, “I have a newborn baby at home, and we don’t want to take any risks.” A 23-year-old who works in radiology said she wants to protect her family and her patients.
Others, though, expressed frustration at the idea of mandatory vaccines or needing passes to go to a café.
“I’m getting vaccinated because I want to have a social life and go on holidays,” law student Marius Chavenon, 22, said, adding: “I don’t think vaccination should be compulsory. We live in France, we should be able to do what we want.”
In Paris, nurse Solene Manable said, “There are many health workers who don’t want to get vaccinated because we don’t know much about the vaccines.” But she said she understood “many people who are getting vaccinated to be able to go back to restaurants,...to be able to have a normal life again.”
Some people said they’re now getting vaccinated because Macron also announced that France will start charging money for some virus tests, which up to now have all been free for anyone in French territory.
To get the COVID pass that will soon be required in all restaurants, people must have proof of vaccination or recent virus infection, or a negative test from the last 48 hours.
Restaurant and bar unions demanded a delay for the passes, and government officials were meeting with industry representatives Tuesday. Restaurant workers expressed concern with enforcing the requirement and fear it could scare customers away after all French eating establishments stayed shuttered for nine months from the pandemic’s onset.
Health Minister Olivier Veran defended the new rule, saying, “The question is: It’s lockdown or the health pass.”
He also welcomed the renewed vaccine interest, saying on BFM television Tuesday: “That’s thousands of lives saved.”
More than 111,000 people with the virus have died in France.
Greece has also announced that all healthcare workers will have to be vaccinated and Italy may soon be following the French plan for COVID passes. The New Statesman <https://www.newstatesman.com/world/europe/2021/07/why-emmanuel-macron-gambling-vaccine-passports-france>reported<> on Tuesday that "Having declared as recently as April that “vaccine passports will never be used to divide the French people,” in a 12 July televised address the French president announced a raft of measures that will shortly make life significantly more inconvenient for the unvaccinated. The measures are intended to boost France’s flagging vaccination take-up before the effects of the cooler weather in the autumn and the more transmissible Delta variant combine to create a fourth wave. Passports proving vaccination status, a recent PCR test or that the holder has recovered from Covid-19 will be required for entry to cultural centres, concerts and festivals from 21 July. From August, they will be demanded of passengers on planes, trains and coaches, as well as in bars and restaurants and in retirement homes and hospitals. PCR tests, currently free, will cost about €49 from the autumn, meaning that those holding out on the vaccine will face prohibitively expensive bills to participate in cultural and social life."
The shift to coercive measures that render the unvaccinated less free is a departure from the initial strategy of France’s vaccination campaign, which focused on convincing, rather than forcing, the hesitant. But with 53 per cent of the population now having received at least one dose – a figure likely to rise rapidly following Macron’s announcement – the president is betting that coercion of the minority is a better solution than restrictions on the entire population if infection rates rise again.
With the economy almost completely open, scientists fear there could be 20,000 cases a day by August, up from around 4,000 at present. With cases having dropped precipitously since the third wave in the spring, and with businesses open, many have felt little urgency to get vaccinated. But there are only two months of warm weather remaining before the autumn, when a fourth wave among a significant minority of unvaccinated people would likely be enough to threaten the health system and require the return of lockdown measures. “If we do not act today, the number of cases will continue to rise rapidly,” Macron warned.
Enforcement of the new measures is likely to be a challenge. The hospitality industry is nervous about the burden of checking their patrons’ vaccination status being placed on them under threat of fines or even closures when their businesses have already been battered by over a year of the pandemic. It may be possible for holdouts simply to present a valid QR code obtained from someone else’s app for verification as their own. The effectiveness of the coercive rules may be reduced by the socio-economic profile of those who remain unvaccinated, who are disproportionately on lower incomes and so less likely to use the hospitality services where they will apply. Nonetheless, the rules are likely to boost take-up of the vaccine significantly in the coming months.