France’s health minister has said that thousands of health care workers across the country have been suspended without pay for failing to get a required COVID-19 vaccine.
“Some 3,000 suspensions were notified yesterday to employees at health centers and clinics who have not yet been vaccinated,” Olivier Véran told France’s RTL radio on Thursday, according to a France24 translation.
French regulations set a Sept. 15 deadline for health care employees to have at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine and show a negative coronavirus test as a condition for working, unless they have an exemption for health reasons or because they’ve recovered from COVID-19. By Oct. 16, health care workers must show they are fully vaccinated.
Defending the decision to suspend those who did not meet the deadline, Véran said that “the continuity of care, the security of care, and the quality of care were assured yesterday in all hospitals and health-care facilities” in the country.
Several dozen employees resigned rather than meet the vaccine requirement, he said.
Despite the suspensions, “continued health care is assured,” he said, noting that France has some 2.7 million health workers.
Véran said that most of the suspensions were mainly support staff and only “very few nurses.” He said most of them were “temporary.”
France’s main health authority reported that by Sunday, nearly 90% of care workers in nursing homes for the elderly had received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to Euro News.
In recent months, France has seen mass demonstrations, turning out thousands of protesters who oppose the government’s vaccine policies — including a “health pass” system introduced by President Emmanuel Macron — that they believe violates the rights of people who refuse to be inoculated.
As many as 200,000 marched one weekend last month and tens of thousands filled the streets for other weekend marches in some of France’s largest cities, including Montpellier along the French Riviera, Bordeaux in the west and Strasbourg near the German border.
Macron’s health pass, which began to be introduced in July, would require anyone wanting to enter a restaurant, large shopping mall, theater or long-distance train to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.
This story originally published in the Morning Edition live blog.