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3,000 Health Care Workers In France Have Been Suspended For Not Getting A COVID Shot

Medical staff tend to COVID-19 patients at the Georges Pompidou European Hospital in Paris in April.
Anne-Christine Poujoulat
AFP via Getty Images
Medical staff tend to COVID-19 patients at the Georges Pompidou European Hospital in Paris in April.

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, the health minister, told France's RTL radio on Thursday, according to a France 24 translation.

French regulations set a Sept. 15 deadline for health care employees to have at least one dose of a COVID-19 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 COVID-19 vaccine, according to Euronews.

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 — which they believe violate 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 coronavirus test.

This story was originally published in the Morning Edition live blog.

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.