Father's death spurs Frenchwoman's fight for compulsory jabs for health workers

·4-min read

A woman whose 79-year-old father died after contracting Covid-19 in hospital via unvaccinated health workers, is suing the French prime minister for compensation. The man’s relatives are among an increasing number of people, including France's top health authority, who are calling for vaccination to be made compulsory for all health workers.

Johanna Cohen-Ganouna’s father died on 2 May of acute cardiorespiratory decompensation and hypoxemic SARS-CoV-2 penumonia, according to the medical records she obtained.

He contracted the virus when he was admitted to a hospital in Creteil, east of Paris, for a fractured hip some weeks earlier. Suffering from a weakened immune system he was placed in isolation in another hospital in nearby Limeil-Brévannes.

The family were not allowed to see him. But on a visit shortly before he died, Cohen-Ganouna's sister says she saw careworkers failing to respect health protocols.

“I saw caregivers who were not wearing masks, I am very angry. He died because of them,” she told Le Figaro daily.

According to Benjamin Fellous, the family’s lawyer: “The file clearly states that he was hospitalised in a room, alone, when he contracted the disease.”

In the Paris Hospitals group (AP-HP), Fellous said that as of 6 July, 92 percent of the medical staff were vaccinated. And of the so-called non-medical staff only 55 percent had received a vaccination.

The family blames the government for not making vaccination of health workers compulsory.

“It’s criminal that health workers are not vaccinated,” Cohen-Ganouna said. “I’m doing this to honour and in remembrance of my father, but also for the other famlilies who are going through the same thing.”

Fellous added: “This affair could be a catalyst in the process of compulsory vaccination of carers.”

Pressure from health authority

Less than 60 percent of care home staff have had a first dose of an anti-Covid vaccine and the government is coming under increasing pressure to improve the rate.

On Friday, the Haute Autorité de la Santé (HAS) – France’s health advisory board – said vaccinations should become compulsory immediately for all health workers along with any professionals who come into regular contact with people vulnerable to Covid-19.

“While the number of new cases and the pressure on the hospital system remain relatively low, the dynamic of the epidemic in France is significant and could quickly lead to a deterioration in the health situation,” HAS said in a statement.

The French government is under no obligation to heed HAS’ advice. But it often does take it into account, as with using mRNA vaccines against the highly-infectious Delta variant.

The over-12s too?

HAS also urged the government to consider making Covid shots mandatory for everyone over the age of 12.

Data from the UK has shown teenagers are more likely to catch the Delta variant and suffer symptoms.

“As recent modelling work by the Institut Pasteur shows, unvaccinated people contribute disproportionately to transmission,” the board wrote. “An unvaccinated person is 12 times more likely to transmit SARS-CoV-2 than a vaccinated person.”

On Saturday, France’s National Medicine Academy also urged the government to introduce mandatory Covid vaccination for the over-12s.

After a steady fall in the number of Covid-19 infections, hospitalisations have climbed over the last week in France, with an average of 3,000 positive cases recorded in France for the 13th consecutive day, an increase of 56 percent in a week, according to official data interpreted by covidtracker Nicolas Berrod.

Government to decide

President Emmanuel Macron is to give a televised address on Monday in which he is expected to lay out the government’s strategy for dealing with a potential fourth wave and the spike in infections caused by the Delta variant.

Centrist politician and former presidential candidate Francois Bayrou told BFM TV there was no other option than compulsory vaccination for everyone. He called for health workers who refused to be suspended.

France's Health Minister, Olivier Véran, on Sunday said the question of compulsory vaccination of health workers was a path they were exploring. The issue, he said, would be decided on during Monday's defence council meeting on tackling the looming fourth wave.

So far, only around half of French people have received a first dose and 40 percent two shots. The government aims to get two-thirds - 35 million - fully protected by the end of August.

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