As a coronavirus vaccination mandate for health workers went into effect in France on Wednesday, government officials said that some were still holding out against the obligation.
Under a law passed this summer, nearly 3 million people who work in health care or other essential fields — including hospital workers, retirement home employees and firefighters — must get at least a first shot or face job suspensions without pay. Those who have already received their first dose have until Oct. 15 to get a second one.
Gabriel Attal, the French government spokesman, said at a news conference on Wednesday that more than 90 percent of health workers had received at least a first dose, compared with 64 percent in early July, when President Emmanuel Macron first announced the mandate.
“A vast majority of health workers have made the choice of responsibility,” Mr. Attal said, adding that the measure aimed to “protect hospitals, protect our health workers, protect vulnerable patients.”
Mr. Macron had announced the mandate and a broader health pass policy in July to counter slumping vaccination rates. The health pass — which shows proof of vaccination, a recent negative coronavirus test or recovery from Covid-19 — is now mandatory to eat at restaurants, go to the movies and attend other public venues.
Protesters angered by the policy marched through cities around France over the summer, calling the pass an infringement on their freedom. But the demonstrations have dwindled in size over the past weeks. The policy is now broadly accepted, and France has seen an uptick in vaccination rates.
Still, several hundred health care workers demonstrated in font of the health ministry in Paris over the weekend, voicing their discontent.
Some union leaders, who favor vaccination but say the government should convince health workers instead of forcing them, have warned that France’s health care system could come under strain if even a small number of unvaccinated workers were suspended.
But most officials were reassuring.
“It won’t destabilize hospitals,” Frédéric Valletoux, the head of France’s hospital federation, told RTL radio on Wednesday, adding that “it might disturb the functioning of a department here or there, but hospital workers will step up, reorganize, and life will go on.”
The attitude of health workers who refuse to get vaccinated is “very individualistic, very selfish,” Mr. Valletoux added.
Beginning Oct. 1, new immigrants to the United States must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said in a news release on Tuesday.
People seeking to become “lawful permanent residents” — or green card holders — have permission to live in the United States and eventually seek citizenship. Applicants for permanent residency must undergo a medical examination.
The Covid vaccine joins a list of others that applicants must have, including inoculations against measles, mumps, rubella, polio, and hepatitis A and B, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some people may be exempt from the new rules, including those who are too young to be vaccinated and those who have medical conditions that make the shots dangerous for them.
About 54 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, and some people have begun to get booster shots.
The new requirement for those seeking permanent U.S. residency is in line with President Biden’s new vaccine mandates for federal workers and contractors. The Pentagon has announced that active-duty military personnel also must be vaccinated.
Mr. Biden has rolled back several Trump-era immigration rules, including a ban on legal immigration that Donald J. Trump implemented at the beginning of the pandemic.
The European Union announced on Wednesday the creation of a new biomedical authority designed to better respond to future pandemics, as it seeks to avoid repeating the mistakes that plagued its early response to the coronavirus.
Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, also pledged to donate 200 million extra coronavirus vaccine doses to middle- and low-income countries by mid-2022, in addition to 250 million already promised by the end of the year.
In her annual speech on the state of the union, Ms. von der Leyen described vaccination discrepancies as one of the greatest geopolitical issues facing nations.
“The scale of injustice and the level of urgency are obvious,” Ms. von der Leyen told lawmakers at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, in eastern France, acknowledging that the bloc and other rich nations had fallen short on their promises.
But the bloc’s pledges on vaccine donations have so far rung hollow: E.U. member countries had only donated 18 million doses as of early September, a fraction of the 200 million promised. Covax, the global vaccine-sharing program, of which the European Union is a part, last week slashed its forecast for doses available this year, in part because rich countries continued to hold most of the world’s doses.
Still, Ms. von der Leyen’s speech served as a reset for the European Commission after early missteps in vaccine procurement that took a more positive turn in recent months.
While most developing countries have yet to administer a single dose of a coronavirus vaccine, including in the European Union’s immediate neighborhood, more than 70 percent of adults across the bloc have been fully vaccinated.
“We delivered,” she said, although she conceded that the bloc faced wide discrepancies domestically, as several Eastern European countries have been lagging behind.
Ms. von der Leyen’s confident tone on Wednesday came in great contrast with her speech last year, when new Covid-19 cases were picking up across the bloc and coronavirus vaccines were months away.
“When I stood here in front of you a year ago, I didn’t know when and if we could have a safe and effective vaccine against the pandemic,” she said.
The European Commission, which negotiated for vaccines on behalf of member countries, was heavily criticized for the sluggish beginning of its vaccination program. The commission signed its first deal on behalf of member nations months after the United States, hampering vaccine deliveries and, later, inoculation campaigns.
Yet the rollout gained speed in recent months, and many E.U. countries have now overtaken other rich nations like the Britain, Israel and the United States. Some have started administering booster shots to millions of older and vulnerable residents, even though the World Health Organization has called on the richest nations to delay boosters until the end of the year, to allow more doses to go to poorer countries.
To help the bloc be better prepared for future health crises, Ms. von der Leyen said that the new agency — known as the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority, or HERA — would aim to “make sure that no virus will ever turn a local epidemic again into a global pandemic.”
It is set to receive 50 billion euros (about $59 billion) in funding by 2027 and will function alongside the E.U.’s existing health agencies, the European Center for Disease Control and the European Medicines Agency.
But its exact role remains unclear, as E.U. members each run their own health policies. The pandemic brought to light the limits of the European Center for Disease Control, which is in charge of coordinating individual nations’ pandemic response plans but has had limited powers in enforcing or modifying states’ actions.
Still, many welcomed the creation of the new agency, highlighting a need for more coordination at an E.U. level. Véronique Trillet-Lenoir, an oncologist and a lawmaker in the European Parliament, said the agency could reinforce solidarity among the bloc’s member countries, something it lacked in the early stages of the pandemic.
“What the coronavirus pandemic has shown is that the 27 member states have fared much better all together,” Ms. Trillet-Lenoir said, “and that no European country would have done better on its own.”
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