By Antony Paone
PARIS – Vanessa Perotti’s day at work was brief on Wednesday, lasting long enough for the medical secretary to be handed notice of her indefinite suspension because she refuses to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Perotti will only be allowed back if she gets the shot. During her suspension, her salary will be withheld, as will contributions to her pension. She said she would not be entitled to claim unemployment benefits or to offset any of the period with paid annual leave.
It left her with little choice but to quit the health sector, Perotti said.
“I’m disgusted. In any case, there’s nothing I can do. I just have to accept it,” she said after walking out of the Hopital Baujon in Clichy, a working-class Paris suburb.
Under a government mandate https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-france-vaccination/factbox-european-nations-plans-for-coping-with-covid-19-idUSKBN2GB0Y3?feedType=RSS&feedName=healthNews, all healthcare and care home workers https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/french-care-home-some-staff-quit-over-vaccine-mandate-2021-09-15, home aids and paramedics had to have received at least their first COVID-19 shot by Sept. 15.
President Emmanuel Macron’s government imposed the rule to boost vaccination uptake and help prevent a new wave of infections in the autumn that might jeopardise France’s economic recovery.
Perotti is among a small minority of healthcare workers refusing the vaccine. French authorities said that, as of Sept. 7, 84% of staff in nursing homes and hospitals had received both COVID-19 doses.
“I’m not going to force myself to get injected with something just to work,” Perotti told Reuters a day earlier during a union-led protest.
“Maybe it’s harmful, maybe it’s not, but I don’t want anyone to impose it on me. It’s not ethical, we’re free to do what we want with our bodies.”
Macron has said freedoms come with responsibilities during a time of health crisis, including a duty to protect the elderly and vulnerable. Perotti said her work as a secretary meant she did not come into contact with poorly patients.
A health ministry letter to local health authorities and healthcare establishments said suspensions would last until the staff member got vaccinated and that the mandate would remain in place even after wider health pass rules expired in November.
“It’s over,” Perotti said, referring to her career in hospitals. “I’m not sure how I’ll cope, but I tell myself that every day is a new day.”