Influencer in chief: Macron answers vaccine skeptics on TikTok and Instagram.
By Aurelien Breeden
In the United States, the White House is teaming up with TikTok influencers to promote the safety and efficacy of vaccines. But in France, President Emmanuel Macron has decided to do the influencing himself.
“Many of you still have questions, are afraid; many hear about false information, false rumors — sometimes complete nonsense, let’s be honest,” Mr. Macron said in a video published on Instagram and TikTok this week that eschewed the gilded trappings of French officialdom.
Instead, in a rare display of casualness for a French president, Mr. Macron wore a simple black T-shirt and spoke directly into a camera held at arm’s length, YouTuber-style.
Looking slightly tanned, he spoke from the Fort of Brégançon, the French presidency’s summertime residence on the Mediterranean Coast — although only a flag and logo behind him hinted at anything official.
Coronavirus Pandemic and U.S. Life Expectancy
- 18-month drop in life expectancy. The coronavirus pandemic was largely responsible for shaving a year and a half from the life expectancy of Americans in 2020, the steepest drop in the United States since World War II, according to federal statistics released on Wednesday.
- Disparities. Black and Latino people have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus. Latino and African American residents of the United States have been three times as likely to become infected as their white neighbors. And Black and Latino people have been nearly twice as likely to die from the virus as white people.
- Infection rates. Higher rates of infection and mortality among Black and Hispanic Americans have been explained by exposure on the job and at home, experts said.
- Vaccination gaps. Communities of color, which have borne the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States, have also received a smaller share of available vaccines.
“I’ve decided to directly answer your questions,” Mr. Macron said, in an address that seemed mostly targeted toward young people. “Go ahead, ask them and I’ll try to be as direct and clear as possible.”
Mr. Macron’s social media Q. and A., with several videos posted so far, comes at a crucial time for France’s struggle against the Covid-19 epidemic.
Infections have surged in France’s overseas departments like Martinique and Guadeloupe, both islands in the Caribbean that are now back under lockdown. Mr. Macron’s health pass policy — barring access to many indoor venues to those without proof of vaccination or a recent negative test — has fueled growing protests around the country.
Some demonstrators are not opposed to vaccination but say the health pass is heavy-handed and infringes on civil liberties, and several political opponents say Mr. Macron should be trying to convince people to get vaccinated, not coercing them. Other demonstrators are opposed to the Covid-19 vaccines themselves.
In the videos, Mr. Macron tried to dispel worries and counter falsehoods about the vaccines, although it was unclear whether he was answering questions submitted by actual social media users.
Understand the State of Vaccine Mandates in the U.S.
- College and universities. More than 400 colleges and universities are requiring students to be vaccinated for Covid-19. Almost all are in states that voted for President Biden.
- Hospitals and medical centers. Many hospitals and major health systems are requiring employees to get the Covid-19 vaccine, citing rising caseloads fueled by the Delta variant and stubbornly low vaccination rates in their communities, even within their work force. In N.Y.C., workers in city-run hospitals and health clinics will be required to get vaccinated or else get tested on a weekly basis.
- Federal employees. President Biden announced that all civilian federal employees must be vaccinated against the coronavirus or be forced to submit to regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and restrictions on most travel. State workers in New York will face similar restrictions.
- Can your employer require a vaccine? Companies can require workers entering the workplace to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to recent U.S. government guidance.
“If you don’t do it merely for yourself, do it for those close to you,” he said in one video addressed to young people who argue the vaccine is superfluous for them because they aren’t high-risk patients. “The vaccine saves lives, the virus kills,” he said in another.
In the latest clip, published on Tuesday, he reminded viewers that vaccines had helped humanity eradicate diseases like smallpox and polio and that, since 2018, 11 different vaccines are already mandatory for children in France.
On mRNA vaccines, the innovative technology used in Pfizer and Moderna’s Covid shots, Mr. Macron pointed out that scientific research into the technology goes back decades, and argued the rapid development of vaccines during the Covid-19 pandemic was something to be celebrated, not looked at suspiciously.
“That’s the reality of things and the truth,” he concluded.
Mr. Macron’s videos have already been seen millions of times, but it is unclear whether his influencing efforts will be enough to convince vaccine skeptics, many of whom are very distrustful of the French government and harbor intense animosity toward Mr. Macron himself and his top-down style of governing.
Some commenters on Mr. Macron’s videos asked questions about vaccines, others supported his efforts or even complimented his physical appearance, while detractors accused him of spouting propaganda and ignoring citizens’ concerns.
“The president’s T-shirt isn’t going to make him more approachable, younger or more convincing,” Julien Odoul, a spokesman for the far-right National Rally party, told Franceinfo on Tuesday.
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