As Covid-19 surges in Europe, Emmanuel Macron’s bet on vaccine passports appears prescient

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When Emmanuel Macron announced on July 12 that vaccine passports would soon be required to enter establishments ranging from restaurants to long-distance trains, France was one of the least vaccinated countries in Europe. Today it is one of the countries with the highest coverage in the world, with 76.2 percent of the population receiving at least one dose of the vaccine, ahead of Germany and the UK and just behind Italy.

Macron’s policies did meet with some resistance. Some politicians argued that the exclusion of the unvaccinated from much of public life was tantamount to de facto compulsory vaccination, an unprecedented attack on individual freedom. Tens of thousands of people protested against the measure weekly.

But the policy worked. This prompted many of those who had not yet been vaccinated to get the shot. Some opponents of vaccination were forced to immunize because they leaned towards the fact that being unvaccinated was too much of a burden to bear.

Vaccination rates skyrocketed after Macron announced vaccine passports. The proportion of the French population vaccinated against Covid-19 soon surpassed the proportion of other European countries, and some of them then took similar measures.

Critics speculated that the scheme would fuel social tensions by dividing citizens into two classes, but most European leaders agreed that vaccine passports were the most reliable way to boost vaccination rates ahead of the inevitable rise in incidence in the fall. Vaccine passports are now required to enter establishments such as restaurants and bars in most European countries.

But other European countries have less stringent requirements than France, where the rules are strictly enforced. In Germany, the rules for issuing vaccine passports differ depending on the federal state. Vaccine passports are rarely scanned, allowing unvaccinated people to forge their certificates to gain access to facilities. In Germany, there are no national vaccination requirements, even for nursing staff and medical personnel.

As a consequence, Germany is one of the least vaccinated countries in the EU. The contrast with neighboring France, where skepticism about vaccines is particularly high, is proof that, without overwhelming public enthusiasm for vaccinations, coercion is the best way to stimulate vaccine distribution. This mismatch appears to have impacted daily cases, which are stable in France, but have reached record highs in recent days in Germany, where they currently stand at over 50,000 per day. V Health Minister Jens Spahn called it “Pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

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Some European countries have started to reintroduce winter restrictions. The Netherlands will enter partial Lockdown on November 13th, minor stores close at 19:00, while in Austria impose what his government calls “isolation for the unvaccinated,” prohibiting those who have not been vaccinated from going to most places other than supermarkets and pharmacies. If Macron manages to avoid such measures, his policy of forced vaccination will be considered prophetic.

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