France suspends 3,000 health workers for failing to get a COVID vaccine

About 3,000 workers in the health and care sectors have been suspended in France for failing to get vaccinated against COVID-19 before a government deadline, health minister Olivier Véran has announced.

“Yesterday, some 3,000 suspensions were served on staff in health and social care facilities who had not yet entered into a vaccination course,” Véran told RTL radio on Thursday morning.

The minister stressed that “the continuity of care and the security of care and quality of care were assured yesterday in all hospitals and medico-social facilities” although a few services — mostly technical ones such as MRI or coronary angiogram services — were impacted for a few hours.

He flagged that the sector counts 2.7 million employees and that “a large number” of these 3,000 suspensions are “only temporary”.

He highlighted the suspensions primarily affected support staff, with “few white coats” among them.

“There are a few dozen resignations at this stage that have been recorded in the country,” he also announced.

Vaccination was made compulsory for healthcare workers by President Emmanuel Macron in mid-July with a deadline set for September 15. The measure was one of several designed to boost flagging vaccination numbers and included the roll-out of a COVID health pass — to access bars, restaurants, cultural and leisure venues — and the end of free COVID tests unless prescribed by a doctor.

They led to a boost in vaccinations but also to weekly protests across the country with protesters decrying the health pass and mandatory vaccination as “liberticide”.

About 84% of French adults are now fully vaccinated. The country has also opened vaccinations to children aged 12 or over and started giving booster shots to vulnerable people.

According to Santé Publique France, 84% of caregivers in nursing homes, hospitals and other facilities were fully vaccinated by September 7, with the rate climbing to 91.1% for self-employed medical workers including general practitioners and nurses.

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