Monday, November 30, 2009

H1N1 France: From vaccine refusal to panic and riot police in just 7 days

"Please speak into the hygiaphone." photo: Flickr (CC)

There’s nothing like a good dose of reality to get people to change their minds about things. And the H1N1 vaccine debate in France is a textbook example of that.

The extreme cynicism with which the French considered H1N1 vaccination just one week ago has been replaced by panic and exasperation at not being able to get vaccinated. Riot police have been deployed at certain vaccination stations.

Flesh & Stone has already reported that people have been taking the government to court for attempted mass poisoning or, as the charge sheet puts it: “Attempting to administer substances…of a nature which could result in death.” Polls taken as recently as two weeks ago showed that around 80 percent of the population wouldn’t or most probably wouldn’t, get vaccinated against H1N1, and there has been violent public reaction against government attempts to persuade people to get their children vaccinated. Figures suggest that children represent almost 75 percent of those infected.

Sections of the national media have had a lot of fun ridiculing attempts to get people to vaccinate, and one video skit showed a supposedly desperate health minister begging people to be nice to her and take “my” vaccine.

Things have changed extremely quickly. The days of anti-vaccine conspiracy theories have evaporated into thin air in the space of just one week, replaced by crowds of worried people clamouring to be vaccinated and overwhelming vaccination stations and their staff.

This situation has come about because of the sudden and dramatic rise in infection rates and, with it, the sudden and dramatic rise in the number of dead, particularly among the young.

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H1N1 France: From vaccine refusal to panic and riot police in just 7 days