France Increases Vaccinations

And so general discussion of vaccine passports and requirements in the US.

France was lagging in its vaccination rates, so the National Assembly passed, and President Macron signed a vaccine passport law. Beginning on August 1, access to indoor public venues like cafes, restaurants, and bars. And, dare I say, voila! and the number of vaccinated persons has started to rise. The NYT reports, Persuasion vs. Coercion: Vaccine Debate in Europe Heats Up.

Barreling through 1,200 proposed amendments, defying accusations of authoritarianism and chaos from the hard right and left, the lower house voted by 117 to 86 to back President Macron’s attempt to strong-arm the French to get vaccinated by making their lives miserable if they do not.

Europe’s problem is similar to that of the United States: vaccination levels that, at around or just under 60 percent, are inadequate for herd immunity; surging Delta variant cases; and growing divisions over how far getting an injection can be mandated.

But where the United States has generally not gone beyond hospitals and major health systems requiring employees to get Covid-19 vaccines, major European economies including France and Italy are moving closer to making vaccines mandatory for everyone.

Mr. Macron’s measures, announced July 12 as the only means to avoid yet another French lockdown, have spurred both protests and an extraordinary surge in vaccinations, with 3.7 million booked in the first week after the president spoke, and a record of nearly 900,000 vaccinations in a single day on July 19. In this sense, his bold move has been a success.

This outcome suggests a couple of things. One, that perhaps a lot of vaccine hesitancy is just vaccination procrastination rather than some profound fear of the shots. Second, a little motivation goes a long way in getting people to make a decision. If a given person’s choice is doing nothing and life goes on or one has to go mess with getting a shot, the cost-benefit is to default to doing nothing. Now, if that person can no longer dine out or go to the pub, then the calculation shifts. And yes, I fully recognize that not getting Covid ought to be part of the calculation, but how many people avoid basic medical care (e.g., getting their teeth cleaned) because they just don’t want to hassle with it despite the known risks of such behavior? (How many people smoke and convince themselves that they will be the odd cases that won’t get lung cancer?).

Of course, and unfortunately, something like this will not happen in the United States. For one thing, France has a unitary state, meaning that the national government can mandate rules in ways that are impossible in a federal system like the US. In other words, while US states have a substantial amount of policy autonomy, French Departments are essentially administrative units more like US counties than US states.

And since there is no national consensus on vaccinations, and specifically because the politicization of vaccines has meant that Republican-controlled states are actively opposed to measures like what happened in France (and is likely to happen elsewhere in Europe) we are simply not going to see any national mandates of this type.

It is encouraging that some prominent Republican politicians are starting to understand the situation we are in (although the degree to which they understand how they themselves helped to create it remains to be seen. For example, the Governor of my state, Kay Ivey, said this week (as James Joyner quoted earlier in the week):

“Folks are supposed to have common sense. It’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down….I’ve done all I know how to do. I can encourage you to do something, but I can’t make you take care of yourself.”

Yet, just two months ago (via WSFA), Ivey signs bill to ban ‘vaccine passports’ in Alabama.

The mixed message here is stark. Kudos to her for promoting voluntary vaccination and being clear that she, herself, was vaccinated. But signing performative laws to signal that the state supports banning any kind of comprehensive approach is a great way for the “regular people” to also be “the unvaccinated folks.”

As I said in the comment section of one of James’ recent posts: if this state had required proof of vaccination or a negative test to attend college football game this fall, the results would have been a lot like what was seen in France.

Ballotpedia has the following map of federalism in action on this topic:

To add to that, here is a map of colleges and universities requiring proof of vaccination via the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Look, I understand that people have the right to refuse medical treatment. But there are also broader collective public health considerations that need to be taken into consideration. It is not unreasonable to want rules that will actively encourage individuals to be vaccinated. You have to have certain shots to attend K-12 or to live in a university dorm. This is not some new notion that we are dealing with.

But when politicians and their media allies convince large swaths of people that a given virus is no big deal (just the sniffles, dontcha know) then this is where we end up. And we are about to see the consequences of that bad behavior, and it isn’t going to be pleasant.

FILED UNDER: Europe, Health, US Politics, World Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Raoul says:

    Here is a proposal: whenever COVID rates exceed 50 positives per 100000 per day on a seven day rolling average, vaccine passports should be required for all indoor venues.

  2. Sleeping Dog says:


    Good idea that won’t happen.

    Regarding R’s, getting religion (so to speak) on jabs, I agree with the cynical take posted elsewhere, that R pols are realizing that it is their voters who are dying and dying in numbers that can tip some House seats and Governor’s mansions.

  3. drj says:

    Mr. Macron’s measures, announced July 12 as the only means to avoid yet another French lockdown, have spurred […] an extraordinary surge in vaccinations

    This isn’t really reflected in the data.

    AFAIK, there isn’t a single European country yet in which vaccine supply outpaces vaccine demand.

  4. de stijl says:

    I remain convinced that the reason Trump did not win in 2020 was because of his daily Covid-19 briefings back in March and April.

    He demonstrated bad judgement repeatedly. Live. For all to see.

  5. Gustopher says:

    I expect the frothy rage of those denied entry because of vaccine passports would be borderline uncontrolled.

    That said, I would pay extra to go to a restaurant or pub without the unvaccinated. Besides the lower risk of disease, there would just be fewer assholes about.

  6. Kathy says:

    Think of what happens when opposition to the COVID vaccines becomes opposition to all vaccines. Measles is already making a comeback in the US. Other diseases could come back, like polio, pertussis, rubella, etc.

  7. wr says:

    @Gustopher: “That said, I would pay extra to go to a restaurant or pub without the unvaccinated”

    And how about the surcharge for a seat near the entrance so you can watch the freakshow as the unvax try to bully their way in?

  8. Jax says:

    @wr: I’d prefer the balcony VIP tickets that look out over the entrance, so I can gleefully drop things on them. 😛

  9. gVOR08 says:

    Requiring a vaccine passport for cafes, restaurants, bars, sports stadiums, cruise ships, and what have you may well incentivize the middle class, even the Trumpers, to get a shot. Although I can see problems getting sports bar owners here in SW FL to go along with it, but whatever. But I see most elder care workers, for instance, aren’t vaccinated. Many of them have neither the disposable income nor the leisure to go to bars, cafes, etc. Employer vaccine requirements, coupled with vaccination programs at the place of employment seem in order. But Biden wanted to do a lot of community outreach, even door-to-door, and the GOPs absolutely freaked.

  10. Lounsbury says:

    It is truly staggering the degree to which the human race can be collectively dim.

    In other news of tangential relevance to the subject, Tunisia has had a Covid19 driven coup d’état, albeit dressed up in some constitutional articles stretched interpretations. Driven very much by a quite failed 2nd (or perhaps 3rd) wave response and current per capita death rate that is quite astonishing. The first Covid19 coup if you will.

    Shall have quite some interesting calls tomorrow AM with my Tunis office.

  11. Gavin says:

    Those same public officials should have been talking about the consequences from the jump — “Choose to get the vaccination voluntarily or you will experience the consequences such as intubation involuntarily.”

    It’s not the choice that’s the issue.. it’s the inevitable consequence of that choice.

  12. gVOR08 says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    I agree with the cynical take posted elsewhere, that R pols are realizing that it is their voters who are dying and dying in numbers that can tip some House seats and Governor’s mansions.

    Nah, the mortality rage just isn’t high enough. It’s the old rule that you can always count on a Republican pol to do the right thing, once he’s caught enough bad publicity for not doing it. They’re “vaccinating” themselves from the charge they did nothing about vaccination by making one or a few pro vaccine statements. Even Ron DeSantis said you should get vaccinated, sort of, maybe, if you really feel you must. Ivey’s getting a lot of good press for a statement. What’s she done?

  13. Gustopher says:


    Although I can see problems getting sports bar owners here in SW FL to go along with it, but whatever.

    If they want to have a den of covid, let them. Let businesses decide if they want to be covid or non-covid — make it clear that the justice department will sue to overturn the bans on checking covid vaccine status.

    The cruise ships seem like a good place to start, since Florida banned them from screening passengers. High profile, very clear health risks, etc. Our pro-corporate Supreme Court will likely want to empower corporations to be able to check.

    Propose legislation to protect employers from litigation in the case of covid outbreaks if they require vaccination. It won’t go anywhere with the Republicans in Congress using the filibuster, but it would paint a big bright target on businesses that do have covid outbreaks, and push them to try to cover their financial asses.

    There will be holdouts. They’ll get immunity the hard way, as segregated from vulnerable populations as possible.

    FL Sports bar Covid… like, dudes, we tried to tell you, we tried to drag you along, but at some point you have to take responsibility for your own stupidity.