Françoise Salvadori, researcher: “Essentially, the vaccine is a political drug”
Hostility to vaccines in France has a long history. Which debates have continued since the 18th centurye century?
These arguments fall into four categories: religious, moral, scientific, and financial. At first, before Pasteur, vaccinations were criticized for contradicting the divine decree that disease would occur. But at the same time, some Christians welcome vaccination as a way to preserve life, a gift from God. In the recent crisis, we saw major monotheistic religions defend vaccination: Pope Francis considered vaccination an act of brotherhood; Vaccination is mandatory for visiting Mecca, etc. But there are still very small but very radical sectarian movements that oppose vaccines for religious reasons.
There is a kind of spiritual or naturalistic opposition that has a lot to do with alternative medicine: the idea that you should let nature do its thing and that natural immunity is better than vaccination. This is a trend that existed before Pasteur and continued throughout the 19th centurye and XXe centuries, but it is certainly experiencing a resurgence in recent years. The innovation from Pasteur is the gradual development of a scientific method for designing vaccines, especially reproducible protocols. Then the contradiction comes from other scientists. Some even claim that rabies was a “laboratory chimera” created by Pasteur – the Institute was called a “rabies factory” by its detractors.
An accusation that can still be repeated in 2020 when we see a patent on social networks from the Pasteur Institute, which allegedly shows that Sars-COV-2 was created there. Finally, Pasteur was widely criticized for his alleged greed: he was caricatured with bags of coins, accused of receiving state subsidies. We have also heard criticism of Big Pharma regarding Covid. It is true that the production of vaccines has become a highly concentrated sector, with several laboratories that have been able to benefit from public profits. But researchers don’t just make a profit, and vaccine research is largely public.
It seems that the debate between individual choice and collective defense existed even then…
In fact, vaccination is political medicine: it is a matter of protecting not only oneself but also others through broad vaccination coverage. In this context, it is up to the state to apply the precautionary principle and make choices, arbitrage to know whether it is better to avoid diseases or side effects. It is also a drug whose effect is not seen individually: some people think that they will not get sick without it or that it will not have a serious effect at home. That’s all the debate in the 18th againste century, the mathematician Bernoulli argued to d’Alembert: for the first time, that we have a collective interest in variation, a process that was relatively dangerous at the time, while d’Alembert thought it necessary to prioritize individuality. freedom.
With Covid, we have seen the anti-vax movement become transnational. Is there a French feature though?
In France, but not in Germany or Switzerland, the peculiarity of the anti-vax movement is that it manifested itself quite violently on the street. This is also due to the fact that these are countries that have adopted quite radical restrictions. The introduction of the health and vaccination pass in France also played a role. After the issue of tainted blood, Depakin and Vasitachi, there is an atmosphere of distrust in the country. The communication hiccups over the hepatitis B vaccine and the H1N1 vaccine, wrongly blamed for causing multiple sclerosis, gave the impression that the State had completely planted itself.
The start of the Covid crisis was still marked by a big lie about masks being presented by the government as useless or too complicated to use. And this lie, absent in other countries, mirrored other lies about previous health scandals such as asbestos, chlordecone or Chernobyl. Not enough is explained about what a messenger RNA vaccine is. Whether it is related to Covid or other diseases, we are paying a very high price for it today: France is one of the worst countries for vaccination against papillomavirus.