On Saturday, anti-vaccine mandate proponents took to the streets of France for the 12th weekend in a row. Around 50,000 protesters manifested their opposition to the “vax pass” instituted by the French government before the summer. In Paris alone, around 10,000 joined the march.
The French vaccine mandate requires citizens to show a QR code demonstrating proof of COVID-19 vaccination or of a negative PCR test conducted within 72 hours in order to access restaurants and entertainment venues, take public transportation, and board planes and trains. Public hospitals have also began putting unvaccinated staff on leave.
The month of October also marked a turning point in the government’s rollout of the mandate. The PCR tests – which offered an alternative means for citizens who wish to remain unvaccinated to receive a QR code – will no longer be free starting October 15th.
While teenagers were initially spared from the vaccine pass requirement, on October 1st, the French government began requiring children aged 12+ to display proof of vaccination to take part in public activities.
Finally, this past week, the government spokesperson, Gabriel Attal, suggested that the vaccine pass which was only authorized by the National Assembly until November 15th, will most likely be extended until at least the summer of 2022.
While the number of protestors who showed up this past weekend was lower than the last, the remaining opponents of the mandate are fervent and determined.
In Paris, groups were joined by contingents of “Gilets Jaunes” protestors, who have been protesting the policy decisions of Macron’s government since 2018. While these demonstrators seek a political solution to their protests, there are few French political figures who have come out in support of the anti-vaccine mandate base. This is due in part to the fact that the government has successfully amalgamated vaccine mandate defiance with fringe anti-vax ideology.
Amongst the leading opposition candidates for the 2022 Presidential election, only Marine Le Pen has voiced her clear opposition to the “vax pass”, while being sure to point out that she, herself, is vaccinated. Eric Zemmour, the French conservative essayist and journalist who is considering a run for President and surging in the polls, has said he is generally opposed to the vaccine mandate but mostly because he believes it’s an insidious way of requiring mandatory vaccinations for all.
Zemmour feels it would be more honest and transparent for the government to impose a general COVID-19 vaccination requirement although he hasn’t said if he would support such a measure.
Polls conducted at the end of the summer suggested that only 37 percent of the French people supported anti-vaccine mandate protestors, significantly lower than the amount of support the “Gilets Jaunes” movements of 2018 and 2019 received.