Slow France vaccine rollout may affect Macron's re-election

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Slow France vaccine rollout could affect President Emmanuel Macron's re-election, according to an economist.

As of Friday, 80,000 citizens had been inoculated against the coronavirus. Meanwhile, Germany has held hundreds of thousands of vaccinations.

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Experts believe that the success or failure in France vaccine rollout will create the direction of the political debate as the campaign for the 2022 presidential race intensifies in the coming months.

“Although the 2022 presidential election still seems a long way off, President Macron is certainly worried that a poorly-executed vaccine rollout now will harm his chances of winning another term,” Jessica Hinds, a European economist at Capital Economics, told CNBC.

Macron was neck-a-neck with far-right leader Marine Le Pen in an opinion poll released in October.

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Macron has reportedly complained that the speed of vaccinations was “not worthy of the moment or of the French people” and said the pace “must change quickly and notably,” Le Journal du Dimanche said earlier this month.

“A slow pace of vaccination would limit the government’s ability to lift restrictions that are taking their toll on the economy and people’s daily lives. This would clearly be unpopular among (French) voters, particularly if other countries such as Germany are able to remove them sooner,” Hinds said.

Red tape is said to be one of the reasons of the delay because citizens have had to undergo a pre-vaccination consultation and have their doctor permit them before a jab.

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“What I find striking about the French strategy is that public officials did not pay much attention to logistics, to the nitty-gritty,” Jeremy Ghez, Professor at H.E.C. Paris Business School, told CNBC via email.

Reports from the country show a high anti-vaccine sentiment across the population when compared to other countries.

France’s Health Minister Olivier Veran previously said that the distribution was adjusting to the concerns about the vaccine among the general population. Based on an Ipsos poll released in late December, only 40% of French people were planning to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

However, the French government wants to improve the situation by making the process simpler. France’s Veran noted that people aged 75 and over will be able to make an appointment online or by phone in order to be vaccinated. Moreover, France is also expanding the criteria for eligibility, and the government promised that 1 million people will be inoculated before the end of the month.

France is one of the countries that suffered hard from the pandemic. Prime Minister Jean Castex said that restaurants and ski resorts cannot operate until at least mid-February and the nightly curfew will be in effect until late January.

The social restrictions have impacted the economy. France’s GDP is predicted to have contracted by over 9% during 2020.

“The French economy is under anaesthesia and it’s only when you pull the fiscal plug that you will truly know how quickly economic actors can rebound. If this happens quickly, I like Macron’s chances because there are so few alternatives as of today. If it does not, I would argue that all bets are off,” Ghez said on how the economic performance will influence the presidential vote.