Early this week, French President Emmanuel Macron, in response to the rising cases of the more infectious Delta variant, outlined strong measures to stem the virus spread. His address to the nation can be best summed up with this: “Get vaccinated or else…”
He was not pleading or cajoling a nation. He was demanding that each and every citizen of France get vaccinated as soon as possible. There are no excuses, no ifs or buts, and no vaccine conspiracy theories to allow an unvaccinated person to work, or dilly-dally around. By August, everyone should present a “vaccine passport” – a QR code showing if the person is already vaccinated – in order to just even enter a supermarket.
In a widely circulated address, Macron stressed: “If we do not act today, the number of cases will continue to increase,” and that vaccination is a “matter of individual responsibility…but also a matter of our freedom.” The end goal, he revealed, is 100 percent vaccination rate across France. As of today, only 40 percent of its population is fully vaccinated.
Though there were protests and complaints condemning the harsh restrictions that would soon be imposed (e.g. unvaccinated people will no longer be allowed to eat at restaurants, cafes beginning August; or that unvaccinated health workers won’t receive a salary nor be allowed to work after Sept. 15), there was a “positive” side to it – France’s online health portal crashed after Macron’s address because too many people (data revealed it was 2.5 million!) were trying to book vaccination appointments.
This demand surge for vaccination came after people realized that they can’t do anything – or go on with their lives – without a vaccination. In short, the world of the unvaccinated is getting smaller, and soon, they only have their homes to move around in.
Aside from France’s adult citizens, a vaccination campaign for high school, secondary school, and primary school students will begin when school starts again in September. Add to that, PCR tests will no longer be free of charge, Macron said, as this measure “will drive up vaccination rates by encouraging people to get the vaccine rather than just repeated COVID-19 tests.”
The case in our country may not be that similar to France. A high vaccination rate and acceptance of vaccines by Filipinos are positive signs of a much-wished-for herd immunity by year end. But there are still some people in our sphere of influence, such as family members, friends, or officemates who continue to harbor a strong belief that vaccines are useless or a jab is a futile way to protect from the virus variants.
Will the France formula do the trick to “force” them to comply or should our government provide more incentives for the vaccinated? One thing we can do is to continuously inform and encourage the unvaccinated to comply, especially now that the Delta variant is responsible for the spike of COVID cases in Thailand and Indonesia.
If the unvaccinated invites you outside, don’t meet them. Have food delivered to them if they invite you to eat out. Talk to them only via Zoom. And don’t forget to tell them over and over again, “Please get vaccinated. It is not only for you, but for all of us.”
(Johannes L. Chua is the editor of the Environment page.)