French Senate Introduces Bill to Mandate COVID-19 Vaccinations for All Beginning January 1, 2022

Following in the footsteps of much of Europe, France has introduced several stringent vaccine mandates that have irrevocably changed the landscape of life in the nation. The city of lights has been illuminated with the allegorical ambiance of pitchforks and torches as massive protests have taken to the streets of Paris since President Emmanuel Macron announced measures on July 12th that require proof of vaccination to enter cafés, restaurants, and even hospitals. The forewarning of the outcries of those protesters has now reached its apotheosis as the Social Affairs Committee of the French Senate has introduced a bill that will require mandatory vaccinations against COVID-19 for all citizens beginning on January 1st, 2022.

The proposed vaccine mandate was introduced by Senator Bernard Jomier on October 4th. Jomier, the Senator of Paris who introduced the law proposition, sits as the Vice-Chairman of the Social Affairs Committee. He is also a member of the Parliamentary Office for the Evaluation of Scientific and Technological Choices, Social Security Assessment and Control Mission, and Socialist, Ecologist and Republican Group within the French government. Jomier, a member of the Socialist Party, continues to work as a physician as he had preceding his initial term as a Senator which began in 2017. He and his fellow senators Marie-Pierre La Gontrie, Monique Lubin — among others — had initially introduced the premise of a nation-wide vaccine mandate to the French Senate on August 31st but have since crafted the premise of the bill in a much more actionable manner at its first reading before the Social Affairs Committee.

Jomier’s vision for enacting compulsory vaccines against COVID-19 would cite precedent that already requires innoculations against other diseases. Under Article L3111-1 of the Public Health Code, there are currently eleven mandatory vaccines required for citizens without medical exemptions. The existing eleven mandatory vaccines are for antidiphtheric, antitetanus, antipoliomyelitis, pertussis, haemophilus influenzae type b, hepatitis virus type b, invasive pneumococcal infections, serogroup c meningococcus, measles, mumps, and rubella. Jomier’s law proposition would amend that article of the Public Health Code to add vaccinations against SARS-CoV-2 to that schedule. Mandatory vaccinations would take effect beginning January 1st, 2022 and would those who do not comply would be subject to a fine of €135 under Article 519 of the French Code of Criminal Procedure. The fine can increase to as much as €1,500 for repeated offenses in which those mandated to vaccine do not comply. A public session discussion on the proposed amendment to the Public Health Code will take place in the French Senate on October 13th before being forwarded for consideration to the National Assembly.

Effective on September 15th, the French Parliament, the bicameral legislative body which includes the Senate and National Assembly, previously mandated mandatory vaccinations for all healthcare workers. That mandate effected over 2.5 million people who work as hospital staff, paramedics, retirement home workers, and private physicians. Though somewhat of an outlier, the requirement applied to firefighters across France as well. Like elsewhere in the world, this mandate was met with resistance that manifest in organized labor strikes and criticism of the impact mass terminations of unvaccinated workers would have on the French healthcare sector. Since the imposition, at least 3,000 healthcare workers throughout France have been suspended for refusing to take the vaccine. As of October 5th, roughly 75% of the French population has received at least one dose of a vaccine against COVID-19 with a 72.8% of them being entirely vaccinated.

The vaccine mandate proposed by Senator Jomier is the second to be introduced by the Socialist, Ecologist and Republican Group. In July, a similar compulsory vaccine requirement was introduced by the coalition but was rejected. However, at the time of that previous deliberation, the policy apparatus in France was drastically different. Now that the French government has implemented more stringent requirements that have led to a huge proportion of its population being vaccinated, they may provide them the momentum to become the first country to require vaccination against COVID-19.

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