As vaccination against COVID-19 advances in Europe, so do anti-vaccine campaigns. And nowhere is mistrust and opposition to vaccines as strong as in France.
The polls show how little confidence the French have in the efficacy and safety of vaccines. A shared distrust between genders, origins and socio-family status.
Unrepentant anti-vaccines try to take advantage of this latent hesitation. Some want to gain political or social influence. Others are looking for ways to make a profit with ties to medical lobbyists, health gurus, and even the vegan market.
But who are these anti-vaccines? What are your messages?
We have traveled through France to listen to them and verify their claims.
He claims to have 125,000 followers on social media. It took us six weeks to convince him to speak, and he finally agreed, but anonymously. He claims to have received death threats. He claims that Big Pharma is tracking him because of his opinions.
“Some Bill Gates vaccines have caused major pandemics in certain countries, like in India, where he brought his vaccine, I think against polio. 450,000 children contracted polio. And in other countries, like Kenya, this has caused significant sterilization. of several thousand young women “, states.
Julián López Gómez, Euronews: “Do you have proof of what you are saying?”
“Those tests … Bill Gates himself announced at a TEDEX conference and on other platforms that vaccination in Africa was doing a very good job at the depopulation level,” answer back.
The 62-year-old dance teacher’s unsubstantiated claims are widely shared by anti-vaccine radicals, whose recurring themes include anti-Semitic accusations, Freemasonry, Satanism, Kabbalistic, and pharmaceutical conspiracies.
“There is a company called Moderna, which has received investments from Merck; about five years ago they had already worked on a vaccine against COVID, in 2015. Are you fortune tellers? Do you know the future? COVID, I just discovered it, the same The same as you. The coronavirus. But there are people who had investigated this vaccine. Pasteur had already registered patents on the coronavirus and COVID “This anti-vaccine insists that he has preferred to remain anonymous.
French vaccination pioneer Louis Pasteur, of course, did not register any patents for a COVID-19 vaccine, as many anti-vaccines claim.
Radicalization during the pandemic
Historian Laurent-Henri Vignaud, co-author of a book on the history of anti-vaccine movements, confirms its increasing radicalization during the current pandemic:
“We have seen how conspiracy theorists have totally swallowed the anti-vaccine message. The traditional, classic anti-vaccine is a person who cares about their health and that of their children, who does not want any chemicals to be injected into the body of their children, etc. That is their main argument, a medical argument. It is not about making up stories about viruses or vaccines created on Mars to exterminate half the population. “
Conspiracy theorists aside, Professor Vignaud details the historical profile of anti-vaccines.
“There is a fatalistic argument, of a religious nature. That is, we do not want vaccines because God has wanted you to be sick, and we must not go against the divine will. Then, there are arguments of an alter-scientific type, that is, people who do not believe in the dangerousness of the virus. There are also naturalistic arguments: we must let nature act. And there is a fourth, the political argument. They are people who are totally against the fact that the state forces you to take a drug “explains Laurent-Henri Vignaud, historian, University of Burgundy.
One of the most active anti-vaccine movements in France is coordinated from a small town of 120 inhabitants.
Marie Werbrègue is convinced that her daughter and many other children developed autism traits, after receiving one of the 11 mandatory vaccinations in France.
Science has ruled out this association on numerous occasions. But she remains convinced otherwise.
“It is a fraud. People are realizing, little by little, that they have been deceived”says Marie Werbrègue, an anti-virus activist.
Julián López Gómez, Euronews: “It is a serious accusation …”.
“Yes, I know. The problem is that there is no other word … It is a product that does not work, that produces side effects … Vaccinated or not, we can have the disease … There is no one, in quotes, to customer service … what do you call that? “says Marie Werbrègue, an anti-vaccine activist.
Marie has about 12,000 followers on social media. And he’s optimistic about the future of his militant anti-vaccine message.
“It has been like other scandals that have occurred before, such as asbestos … it took a long time to prove that there was a problem. For tobacco, it is the same: for a long time we said there was no problem and at one point we said” enough ‘. It will be the same with vaccination “, says Marie Werbrègue, an anti-vaccine activist.
Distrust of French health authorities
The lines between convinced anti-vaccine and undecided citizens are sometimes blurred.
According to the sociologist Jeremy Ward, the constant mistrust of those responsible for the French public health helps to explain the situation:
“The reason there are perhaps more doubts in France than in other countries is that here we have had a lot more public debates about vaccine safety. We had the one about the safety of the hepatitis B vaccine, in the late 1990s. 90. In 2009, the H1N1 flu, the Human Papillomavirus, the aluminum adjuvants, the multipurpose vaccines … We have had a very complicated decade. “
But how can the French health authorities gain credibility, oppose the anti-vaccine message, and persuade those who doubt its benefits?
“One of the first elements is to listen, and take people’s doubts seriously. A first reflex can be to ignore them, saying ‘these are hysterical moms’, with all the sexist implications. We know that it is very important not to let them circulate hoaxes without giving an answer, even if it is only to say that it is being investigated. Communication is needed, and above all transparency. That we can see the reports on side effects, or undesirable effects “explains Jeremy Ward, sociologist, French National Center for Scientific Research.
Transparency efforts are underway on COVID-19, experts say, which could explain why more French are now willing to get the injection.