Facing a jump in COVID-19 hospitalizations, France’s government is trying to push through a law requiring vaccination to enter any restaurant and many other public places, and warning of tougher measures if the current surge of infections doesn’t recede. The government on Tuesday dropped efforts to require a health pass for all workplaces, however, amid opposition from unions and employers.
France’s government is placing stricter regulations on the vaccine schedule and avoiding a public health lockdown following the revelation that English and French schoolchildren were given inadequate protection against measles. The new vaccination policy will require all children up to age 11 to receive two doses of the Measles Mumps Rubella vaccine (MMR) as opposed to one; those born after 1 January 2018 must also receive a dose of MenB before starting school.
France is continuing to take preventative measures against the H1N1 virus. They are not waiting for it to happen, but are taking steps now before an outbreak occurs. The government is also looking at extending their school vacation by three weeks in hopes of limiting the spread of the virus. Recently, France has taken more strict views on childhood vaccinations. The new law will require that children be vaccinated against 12 diseases including polio, measles, tetanus, and diphtheria before attending school.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex spent the day Tuesday meeting with French mayors and lawmakers to persuade them to support tougher vaccine rules. French travelers and families, meanwhile, were flocking to virus testing tents ahead of the holidays. France’s virus hospitalization numbers have shot up in recent weeks, with some 16,000 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 and 60% of the country’s ICU beds occupied by virus patients, according to the state health agency. Confirmed weekly virus infections are at the highest level in France since the pandemic began.
Most are infected with the delta variant, but more than one in three new cases in the Paris region is the fast-spreading omicron variant, French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said.
“We don’t have a second to lose, he told reporters. “The situation in the hospitals is tense.”
The French government wants a law passed by Jan. 15 requiring vaccination to enter restaurants and many public venues, he said. Currently a “health pass” is required to enter all such spaces in France, but people can get the pass with either a vaccination certificate, a negative virus test, or proof of recent recovery from COVID-19. France also is ramping up vaccination and booster efforts, with doses made available to all children 5-11 starting Wednesday. More than 89% of French people 12 and over have had at least two vaccine shots, and about 40% of adults have had three doses, Attal said.
France is acting quickly to avoid a situation like the one seen in the U.S. with the recent measles outbreak. The French government has announced its intention to tighten vaccine requirements for unvaccinated children between 12 and 15 months old, as well as those under 18 years of age who have not been living in France for at least 5 years or those who do not have access to a doctor’s care because they live too far from health centers.