Income, place of residence or political orientation are not sufficient to explain opposition to the vaccine. These are the conclusions of two researchers interviewed by The HuffPost.
Nine months after the start of the vaccine campaign, some French people are still not convinced of the need to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Only 56.6% of the population completed a complete vaccination schedule and 67.6% received a first dose. In a worrying context, illustrated by the examples of Martinique and Guadeloupe entering a new phase of reinforced confinement, the executive continues to remind people of the importance of vaccinating as many people as possible to get out of the health crisis.
Yet the vaccine divides and continues to spark debate. While the government says not to be vaccinated is to be irresponsible , others believe that these people do not have the intellectual or material means to understand the need to be vaccinated.
The criticisms leveled against unvaccinated people may be as numerous as the reasons not. Of these, the material factor is perhaps the most surprising. Indeed, despite the free vaccine, data has shown that there is a correlation between income level and vaccination rate.
Researcher at CNRS, Florence Debarre works on modeling in evolutionary biology. If statistics on the vaccination rate are not part of her field of predilection, the questions raised by the health pass and the vaccination obligation challenged the researcher when she realized that there was data showing a correlation. between the income level of a municipality and the vaccination rate of its inhabitants. But do the rich really accept to be vaccinated more easily than the poorest? She explored the question. And according to her, vaccination highlights, like the epidemic itself, social disparities.
“Social inequalities in health are known and documented, but when I traced my first figure and saw the magnitude of the effect, I was surprised and shocked to realize it. I thought we had to share it and let it be known in order to identify how to put things right, ”the researcher told HuffPost .
By crossing the wealth of a locality with the median income and then with the percentage of taxable households, the trend was confirmed. But for the researcher, this does not mean that there is a causal relationship. “It is not because we are in a rich town that there is a direct effect on the vaccination rate, it is an indicator of many other things,” she said.
A free vaccine doesn’t mean everyone has access
But how to explain that the vaccination rate is lower in the municipalities where the income of the inhabitants is the lowest? Several elements must be taken into account, such as access to care or being able to make an appointment on a digital platform. In January, the vaccination centers of Seine-Saint-Denis (the poorest department in France) saw an influx of patients who came from more affluent neighborhoods, “tablet in hand”, a Liberation survey showed .
Because the free vaccine does not mean that everyone has access to it. “You have to be informed, have the same chances to get vaccinated. We are told that we can benefit from the special leave of absence but we are not always in the position to ask for it from our employer and take it, especially if we have an undeclared job ”emphasizes Florence Debarre.
The precariousness would therefore not be a factor which pushes to refuse the vaccine but a brake. What would influence the decision-making of the less well-off is more the fact “of having or not contracted the virus”, according to Lucie Guimier, doctor in geopolitics, specialized in public health. “We have forgotten that the precarious were the first affected by the epidemic. These people have already had the Covid, and some say that having already had it, they are immune, or may only need a single injection, ”she explains.
The authorities have undermined their credibility
This is the reason why it is difficult to establish a typical profile of an unvaccinated person. If the diploma, the place of residence, the profession exercised, the fact of having contracted the coronavirus or not and of having had a severe or long form, also come into account, we must also add personal and political factors, such as shows a study published in June on medrxiv.org .
Sociologists Alexis Spire, Nathalie Bajos and Léna Silberzan have collected testimonials from 86,000 people on anti-Covid vaccination. They found that young people, women and those on the lowest incomes showed the most hesitation and rejection of vaccination. Among the reasons mentioned, we find in women of childbearing age, fear of long-term effects on fertility. The place they occupy in society “makes them more sensitive than men to long-term risks and more fearful of rapid technological change,” the study report said.
It would be a reaction to cases involving politicians and health authorities. As early as the 1990s, a hepatitis B vaccination campaign targeting children coincided with the onset of multiple sclerosis cases. A year later, the tainted blood scandal arose, which tarnished public confidence in the government but also in health experts. During the 2000s, 94 million vaccines were orderedto fight against the H1N1 virus which adds a new reason to doubt the credibility of the authorities. The scandal of the Mediator putting on the dock the pharmaceutical group Servier but also officials paid as pharmaceutical consultants for manslaughter added to the reasons for doubt.