VILLEJUIF, France (Reuters) – They could lose their jobs, might jeopardise their mortgage and have experienced a rift with some colleagues, but a couple of French health workers are determined not to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Psychologist Diane Hekking and her boyfriend Laurent Marulaz, a psychiatrist, work at the Paul Guiraud Hospital in Villejuif, south of Paris, and like all French health workers are required to get fully vaccinated by Oct. 15 or they will be suspended without pay.
Part of a small but vocal anti-vaxxer movement, the pair have been demonstrating against the government’s health pass, which shows proof of vaccination or a negative test and is required for entering restaurants, trains and indoor public spaces.
“I will not get vaccinated because my employer or the government wants it. I still have this right … freedom over our bodies is being violated,” Hekking, 28, said at an anti-health pass protest march this month.
She said in her unit of about 30 people, 5 or 6 were holding out against vaccination. Nationwide, the government estimates that more than 70% of health workers are fully vaccinated.
Like most French anti-vaxxers, Hekking has no confidence in the vaccine and rejects mandatory vaccination for health workers.
“I wish that the vaccines would work. But we do not have enough experience with them,” she said. “I am especially against the health pass, because it is not normal that we should have to show an authorisation to work or to go somewhere,” she said.
She said the pass was discriminatory and had already led to clashes with colleagues at the hospital.
The pass has been criticised by far-left and far-right parties, who have joined anti-health pass marches over the past weekends.
Marulaz, 33, said he voted for Emmanuel Macron in the 2017 presidential election but now felt betrayed. “I didn’t expect him to make decisions that are so authoritarian,” he said.
He said that for the 2022 election, he would support Florian Philippot, a former ally of far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
At the couple’s newly bought flat in Montrouge, a suburb outside Paris, Hekking said she does not fear the virus, as she is young and healthy.
Nearly 113,000 people have died of COVID-19 in France, and hospitals are again under pressure as the more contagious Delta variant has led to a surge in new hospitalisations, mainly of people who have not been vaccinated.
Because of the health pass the couple no longer treat themselves to a restaurant meal once a week, but she said she would rather change jobs than have the vaccination.
“We can think of other ways to earn a living. Why not wait a bit? Let’s see what the movement can achieve,” she said.
(Reporting by Michaela Cabrera; Writing by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Janet Lawrence)