Vaccination Obligation: We Cannot “Live With” the Virus
Just after President Macron’s televised address announcing mandatory vaccination for all healthcare workers and the extension of the health pass to many places on July 21, the online vaccine appointment booking website Doctolib exploded under the pressure of requests. The message has gotten through, at least in part. Those who want to continue to enjoy a relatively normal life and go to cafes, restaurants, and shopping malls will have to get vaccinated to prevent the circulation of the virus. This decision clearly indicates that the “live with it” strategy is outdated. The new “living with” the virus means preventing its circulation with the vaccine.
Sars Cov 2, which is constantly mutating, is therefore not a type of virus with which it is possible to live without reacting. It forces us to make permanent compromises with the usual exercise of our freedoms so that we do not unwittingly become the vectors of the disease. The President has decided in favor of the technological tool of vaccination by making it compulsory for all those who want to live as normally as possible.
But the question remains: will it be enough?
It is crucial to answer this question seriously and not with blissful technological optimism because we must stop wasting the efforts of the French people over and over again. We must also avoid discrediting the vaccine, a prodigious technology that is already subject to skepticism. The vaccine is a pharmaceutical solution aimed at preventing contamination and limiting the severity of the disease when it nevertheless affects vaccinated people.
The fact that we now have several effective vaccines is incredible. However, their effectiveness has been measured in the presence of other barrier measures implemented at the time of the tests, such as wearing a mask. Unfortunately, it was found that the efficacy decreased when these measures were lowered. The data from Israel is clear. Despite record levels of vaccination coupled with strict border controls, the lifting of restrictions has resulted in new outbreaks of the Delta variant. The effectiveness of RNA vaccines in preventing infection has fallen to 70% from the more than 90% initially claimed. Their ability to protect against complications is still far superior, but this too may be subject to revision.
It is reasonable to think that the vaccine is only one element in the fight against this virus that is rapidly mutating into more worrying forms. Mask wearing, testing, tracing, and isolation remain key in the context of additive risk management. Therefore, the elimination of free PCR outside of the medical pathway from next October is a mistake. The tests allow the detection of the virus and trigger the necessary measures to break the chains of contamination. It is counterproductive to oppose vaccines and tests and to try to save money on PCRs.
In general, the economic issue has been poorly addressed since the beginning of the pandemic. We have not understood that extinguishing the pandemic – by reacting preventively and radically as soon as a case is detected – is the best investment we can make. It would have allowed us to avoid repeated lockdowns and the deadly stop-and-go that we’ve endured for more than a year. Now that the President has decided in favor of the vaccine, it is crucial that we do not squander this effort asked of by the French, and in particular of the most reluctant by relying solely on it.
With the vaccine, we could benefit from the advantages of Zero COVID despite our mistakes. This strategy allows Australia and New Zealand to limit the economic losses associated with COVID. The data shows that these two countries recorded significant growth rates (+1.8% and +1.6%) in the first quarter of 2021, while in France growth remained slightly negative (-0.1%). Far from being an anomaly, these figures confirm that Zero COVID is the strategy that pays off. This approach has made it possible to maintain the virtuous dynamic that was set in motion at the end of the first containment period, by limiting the constraints on the population. In 2020, the economic decline in the Zero COVID countries was three times less than in France and 2.5 times less than in Belgium. Even setting aside the health toll, with 30 and 55 times fewer deaths, the superiority of the elimination strategy is clear.
These Zero COVID countries have not yet reached the levels of vaccination that we have achieved. This is an advantage we have over them that we can now reap the benefits of if we do not make the mistake of wasting our efforts once again. It is crucial to think of vaccines as part of the toolbox in the fight against COVID. It would be a mistake to make them the only solution. It is key to identify and protect areas without viral circulation. As such, a reinforced control of the virus at the borders is indispensable. It would be unforgivable to inflict on us the obligation to vaccinate, understandable because it is impossible to live with this virus, without integrating it into a global strategy that has proved its worth.
Translated and Edited for Clarity from L’Express article “Obligation vaccinale : ne gaspillons pas les efforts des Français une fois de plus !” published on 07/16/2021.