La Grippe H1N1 donne la fiévre à la France

Sur son blog du Times, Charles Bremner, journaliste du Times, décrit avec une pointe de mauvaise foi et  beaucoup de maitrise les « mauvaises »  habitudes françaises appliquée à gestion de la Pandémie. Les Anglais nous prennent pour des amateurs…

December 03, 2009

France in fever over swine flu  

Those who worry about France losing its identity should be relieved by the thoroughly Gallic way that the country has greeted swine flu. Over the past month, we have swung from one extreme to another.  Behind the story lies France’s deep suspicion of authority and its devotion to conspiracy theory.

First, the government ordered enough vaccine for the whole nation and more —  – a measure taken by few other states. Word then went around that there was more risk in vaccination than in contracting the disease. Some medical personnel fuelled the hysteria by refusing vaccination for themselves and a couple of government ministers said they were reluctant too. Then, two weeks ago, there was a sharp rise in flu deaths and millions rushed for their free injections.

The result is a fiasco. People are waiting all day for their piqure at state health centres. Roselyne Bachelot, the Health Minister, has called in military personnel and medical students to help but she is refusing to let civilian general practitioners do any innoculating [Bachelot in picture being vaccinated]. The reason for that is to save money. The tax-payer has already spent nearly a billion euros on over 90 million doses.

President Sarkozy gave his Cabinet an angry lecture on the mess yesterday. « If I were in your shoes I would make an example of someone immediately, » Sarkozy told Brice Hortefeux, the Interior Minister. That means that the head of another prefect (local state administrator) may roll for displeasing Sarkozy. The president wants to see no more television news pictures of vaccination queues snaking round the block, he said. The 1,200 centres are finally to open in the evenings and on Sundays.
Why has swine flu produced such a psychodrame? 

France distrusts its rulers and especially when it comes to public health. In recent decades, thousands have died because of government conspiracy, negligence or bungling. There was the scandal of the HIV-contaminated blood in the 1980s, in which the Socialist government delayed Aids-testing on donated blood because a French-made process was not yet available. A former Socialist Prime Minister was tried and aquitted. Other officials received criminal convictions. There were also the deaths of dozens of children because of France’s enthusistic use of growth hormones in the 1980s.  Nearly 60 percent of all world cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease due to growth hormones have been recorded in France. And there was the August heat-wave of 2003 in which thousands of elderly and infirm died while the health and social services were on holiday.  

There was also a suspicion that the whole vaccination scheme was a plot to make money for GlaxoSmithKline, the pharma giant. Corroborating evidence for this theory — which quickly infected internet — was the fact that Bachelot, the Health Minister, is a pharmacist by profession. Suivez mon regard…

In case anyone thinks I am taking a gratuitous swipe with this analysis, Le Monde gave a typically succinct summary of the reasons for France’s flu tizzy last week.

« Four categories of reasons can be singled out, all exacerbated by the economic crisis: those linked to uncertainties, the links between health and money, the reactions to the course of the epidemic and a durable crisis of confidence with regard to governments and institutions. » [*French quote below]

As a final note, President Sarkozy is not setting a good example. He has so far failed to be vaccinated and le Parisien reported on Monday that he hates injections.

*Le Monde:
Quatre catégories de raisons peuvent être individualisées, toutes exacerbées par la crise économique : celles liées aux incertitudes, les liens entre santé et argent, les réactions au cours suivi par la pandémie et une crise de confiance durable à l’égard des gouvernants et des institutions.