Are Greece and France right to withhold pay for unvaccinated healthcare workers?
- On Monday, July 13, 2021, French Minister Olivier Veran announced health workers will be denied pay if they have not been vaccinated by September 15. The Greek Prime Minister made a similar statement with the deadline of September 1.
- On July 5, 2021, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove from the World Health Organization expressed her concern over the Delta coronavirus variant, saying, “we know it has increased transmissibility… and the Delta variant has been reported in 96 countries and continues to spread.” She encouraged vaccination in order to prevent “severe disease and death.”
- A few countries have made coronavirus vaccines mandatory, mostly for healthcare personnel. The list includes: Australia, Britain, France, Greece, Indonesia, Italy, Kazakhstan, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Turkmenistan.
- As of July 13, 2021, over 9,325,449 COVID vaccines have been administered to people in Greece, which is 43.5% of the population. France is at a similar rate of 44.6% with 59,782,615 doses.
Towards the end of what has been a year and a half of chaos, uncertainty, and limitations, the most sophisticated governments of Europe continue to impose regulations on their citizens. France and Greece have recently announced that healthcare workers will have to be vaccinated promptly, otherwise risk losing their paychecks.
This is a blatant contradiction from French President Emmanuel Macron’s previous stance on the vaccine, as he once stated it would not be compulsory. Mandating the vaccine and withholding paychecks from the citizens who elected him does not reflect well on his administration. Healthcare workers who are affected by these mandates in France have been outspoken with regards to their disapproval of Macron's actions, emphasizing the fact that the vaccine is essentially an experimental drug, still seeking final approval while being implemented.
Both France and Greece are dismissing the safety concerns that millions share towards the COVID-19 vaccine. In particular, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is once again on the verge of being called back after reports that the drug is linked to Guillain-Barre syndrome.
The law also neglects the religious beliefs of the hardworking healthcare workers. There are many religious and philosophical views on the vaccine that are not being taken into account by both governments.
Withholding the paychecks of employees is an authoritarian tactic for control and is contrary to objective values such as liberty and freedom. In Macron’s case, this is a clear example of hypocrisy in its most concerning form, be it at the expense of the public. While public safety is at the heart of every decent global citizen, an experimental drug shouldn’t be the determining factor in whether or not someone will be able to put food on the table.
Healthcare workers are the most likely people to contract and spread the new COVID-19 delta variant because they treat those who are already infected. France and Greece recognize that unvaccinated people are simply opportunities for the virus to spread and not being vaccinated as a healthcare worker greatly increases the risk of the variant spreading. This seemingly goes against what healthcare workers should prioritize and what they're paid to do: keeping people healthy.
All jobs have requirements, and that includes the healthcare industry. If healthcare workers don't agree with the vaccination requirement, they are free to find a new profession. Just as citizens have the right not to get vaccinated, employers have the right to require vaccinations, and can refuse to pay employees who aren't following the rules required by their place of employment.
The majority of people in the UK, for example, have no complaint against the vaccine mandate or the pay withholding. A petition started there to protest the mandate has only received 72,000 signatures out of the 68 million people residing in the UK. This means that while some have an issue with healthcare workers being required to be vaccinated, the majority of citizens recognize the importance of the vaccine and having health care workers who are safe from spreading the virus.
The number of cases of the Delta variant is increasing in Europe. The governing bodies of European countries are going to have to make tough calls to keep citizens healthy and safe such as withholding pay from those who won't follow mandates set for public health and safety, because money is, and always will be, more important than money.