SARTROUVILLE: French nursing home head Yann Reboulleau was trying to convince 92-year-old resident Madeleine Bonnet of the merits of taking the COVID-19 vaccine, and was having a hard time. “Are we guinea pigs?” asked Bonnet, who worked as a pharmacist, as he sat opposite Reboulleau in the television room of the “Mon Repos” house while the cooks prepared a lunch of bulgur wheat and chicken.
Reboulleau stressed that vaccines are thoroughly tested to ensure they are safe. Bonnet answered the fire: “But with how much certainty?” Scientists say launching COVID-19 vaccines – once the first of them receives regulatory approval for Europe in the coming weeks – will play a huge role in fending off a virus that has contributed to more than 58,000 deaths in France alone. .
But the vaccine’s effectiveness could be undermined, scientists say, by a widespread reluctance of people in France to have it. More than half of the population says they will not be vaccinated or likely will not be vaccinated, according to polls. This reluctance is shared in the “Mon Repos” house near Paris, even though residents, aged 87 to 100, are among the most vulnerable groups to become seriously ill or die from COVID-19.
In the first wave of the virus earlier this year, the home had a cluster of infections in which four residents died. Nationwide, over 17,000 of COVID-related deaths occurred in nursing homes, and 93 percent of all those who died with COVID-19 were 65 or older, public health data showed.
Laurent Levasseur, president of Bluelinea, a company that helps nursing homes manage the virus, including “Mon Repos,” said his company interviewed residents by phone and those undecided or opposed to the vaccine outnumbered those in favor. Sitting next to a Christmas tree, Bonnet said she was suspicious of the motives of pharmaceutical companies rushing to get the vaccines approved and launched in record time.
If their actions were profit-driven, that made her uncomfortable, she said. If the plan was to advance medical science, she was in favor and was willing to be a part of it. For now, however, she was undecided whether to jab when offered. “We’ll see,” he said.