After a slow start, vaccinations against coronavirus are finally beginning to pick up speed in France, with over 16 million doses being administered so far. However, this increase comes during a surge in coronavirus cases that has seen a record number of patients in intensive care units, prompting the nation’s third national lockdown in early April.
Research conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies throughout the pandemic has revealed a heightened sense of vaccine scepticism in France, with a plurality (42%) of respondents who had not yet been vaccinated in February 2021 saying they would not get themselves vaccinated if a coronavirus vaccine became available to them at little to no financial cost within the next year.
But the latest poll by Redfield & Wilton Strategies, conducted on 14 to 15 April 2021, shows a plurality (44%) of French respondents who have not yet received a vaccine now say they will get themselves vaccinated, an increase from 37% in February. 35%, on the other hand, say they will not get themselves vaccinated.
A plurality of all age groups—ranging from 40% to 49%—says they will get themselves vaccinated except 25-to-34-year-olds, 43% of whom say they will not be vaccinated.
That being said, for the vast majority of those who intend to get vaccinated, their willingness to do so may depend largely on which vaccine is offered to them: 86% of respondents say it does matter which specific coronavirus vaccine they receive, a slight decrease from 90% in February 2021. Meanwhile, 14% say it does not matter as long as the vaccine has been approved for use in the European Union.
The importance that French respondents attach to which vaccine they receive is likely related to concerns about rare blood clots linked to the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. In fact, over half (55%) of respondents say they would feel unsafe taking the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, a slight increase from 51% in February. 48% also say they would feel unsafe taking the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, up from 43% in February. About a quarter of the French public says they would feel safe taking the Oxford-AstraZeneca (26%) or Johnson & Johnson (24%) vaccines.
However, there has been an increase in respondents who say they would feel safe taking the two other vaccines approved for use in the EU: a majority (54%) now says they would feel safe taking the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, compared to the 38% plurality who said they would feel unsafe when asked in February. Similarly, half (49%) of respondents say they would feel safe taking the Moderna vaccine, while a plurality of 41% had in February said they would feel unsafe receiving this vaccine. It therefore appears as though the increase in willingness to be vaccinated is in large part reflecting an increase in willingness to receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines in particular.
Interestingly, while a large plurality of respondents continue to say they would feel unsafe taking China’s SinoVac and Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines—both of which are not approved for use in the EU, though they are being administered in EU-member Hungary—there has been a considerable decrease in those who would feel unsafe. 46% now say they would feel unsafe taking the SinoVac vaccine, compared to 56% in February. Similarly, 43% say they would feel unsafe taking the Sputnik V vaccine, down from 53% in February.
As France continues to battle its third wave of the coronavirus pandemic, the recent acceleration in vaccine administration—alongside the increasing openness among the French public to be vaccinated that our research demonstrates—may be a sign of hope for the nation. That being said, the level of vaccine scepticism in France is still considerably higher than it is in other European nations, and it seems much of the French public will only feel safe taking the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, which may prompt delays as France struggles to vaccinate its population.