| 28 February 2024, Wednesday |

French hospital worker: I’m on hunger strike over vaccine mandate

A French hospital worker has gone on hunger strike in protest of a government mandate that requires healthcare staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or face being fired.

In front of the city’s Saint-Pons monastery, Thierry Paysant, a fire safety officer with the public hospital system in Nice, southern France, has constructed a tent and erected a poster stating “Hunger Strike” in bold red letters.

Paysant stated outside the abbey, where he had also set up a camping stove, “We will go as far as we are able to go.”

He stated that he was not opposed to vaccinations in and of themselves, but that he objected to individuals being forced to obtain them or risk losing their employment. “It’s difficult to swallow,” he said. “Violence was used to impose it.”

In France, around 3,000 personnel in the health and care sectors have been suspended for failing to get vaccinated against COVID-19 before a government deadline, according to health minister Olivier Veran.

The new guidelines went into force on Wednesday as part of a French government initiative to increase vaccination rates and prevent a fresh outbreak of COVID-19. According to public health officials, the majority of healthcare workers have agreed to take the shot, but a small percentage have refused.

One care home director said he feared staff shortages because some employees had refused to get vaccinated.

Outside the abbey in Nice, Paysant was joined by another man who said he was also on hunger strike.

According to his own social media posts, Paysant has in the past acted as a street medic during protests by the Yellow Vests, a citizens’ movement that has organized demonstrations against the rule of President Emmanuel Macron.

Paysant said he hoped his hunger strike would amplify the voices of ordinary people who are uncomfortable about the vaccine mandates.

“I watch television and I see that people who are against or who express doubts are pushed to one side or dismissed as conspiracy theorists,” he said. “We hope there will be a public debate.”

  • Reuters