French Prime Minister Jean Castex said Thursday that the country’s proposed vaccine pass would be “much more effective” than mandatory vaccination, in an interview with CNN affiliate BFMTV.
The government has already had “difficulties checking the pass,” he said. “We would have even more of them in checking mandatory vaccinations,” Castex added.
Differentiating the two, Castex said mandatory vaccination could constitute “a fine” but the country’s “objective is to get people vaccinated, it’s not to fill the state coffers.”
The PM said countries like Italy that were introducing mandatory vaccinations had “very, very low” levels of vaccination compared to France.
The objective is the most vaccinated people possible. Mandatory vaccination is a means, a tool, a final tool,” Castex said.
Castex raised the example of some people in low-income neighborhoods who may choose to avoid medical care in general and who were not ideologically opposed to vaccination.
“Fining people like that will not help us to achieve our [vaccination] objectives,” he said.
Some context: His comments come after lawmakers in France’s lower house approved a bill earlier Thursday that aims to make it mandatory for people to show proof of being vaccinated to access many public venues and inter-regional public transport. The bill, once passed by the Senate, would remove the option of being able to show a negative test result instead.
A tense debate in France has emerged over how to deal with the unvaccinated minority of the population. The country has inoculated around 74% of its total population, one of the higher rates in the European Union. But it has been heavily hit by the more transmissible Omicron variant, and has reported record infections in recent days.
French health authorities reported 332,252 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, representing a new record since the beginning of the pandemic for the second day running.
Infections have been rising for several weeks with an average of 200,000 cases a day, according to the health ministry. While hospitalizations have reached their highest rate since May, they are not rising as quickly as infections so far.
But the majority of intensive care unit (ICU) patients are unvaccinated individuals, according to the French government. Health minister Olivier Veran has said that for each vaccinated person in the ICU, there were 20 people that were unvaccinated.