By Cindi Cook
PARIS (AA) - A vaccination mandate goes into effect throughout France on Wednesday, affecting some 2.7 million people in healthcare professions.
According to French news outlet franceinfo, the mandate will apply to nurses and doctors, caregivers in homes and nursing homes, firefighters, paramedics and emergency personnel, and some gendarmes. Those who refuse to comply risk suspension without pay and possible sanctions. The mandate will affect those who work both in a public or private capacity.
All who are employed in healthcare professions must present a complete vaccination schedule, which means either proof of receipt of a first dose of vaccination against COVID-19 or a negative screening test conducted in the last 72 hours.
In the face of a still-escalating pandemic and a surging Delta variant, the mandate was first put in place by President Emmanuel Macron in a speech on July 12.
"If we do not act now, the number of cases will continue to rise and inevitably lead to increased hospitalizations in August," said the head of state in a televised address.
The vaccination obligation is backed by Article 7 of the latest sanitary law formally invoked by the government in August. Workers who do not receive the mandatory doses of the vaccine within a reasonable amount of time will be suspended without pay.
Health Minister Olivier Veran has promised to carry out random checks either in office or digitally, and empowered each region's health authority to closely monitor doctors in their areas.
"From Sept. 15, if you are a caregiver and you are not vaccinated, you will no longer be able to work and you will no longer be paid," said Veran in an interview with French television station LCI on Monday.
Exceptions are made only for those who have a health condition that prevents them from being vaccinated.
Self-employed doctors who remain unvaccinated will be fined €135 ($160), three violations within the space of a month will result in a fine of €3,750 with a possibility of six months in prison.
According to the latest figures from France's Health Ministry, just over 88% of caregivers in hospitals and care homes have received at least one shot, and at least 94% in some areas.
For eight weeks in a row, demonstrations have taken place every Saturday by those who are against the health pass -- proof of vaccination or a negative test -- that is mandatory for entry into all public venues, including restaurants, bars, cafes, movie theaters, and concert halls throughout the country. Protests have taken place across France's major cities, including the capital. Demonstrations are expected yet again this weekend.
France's rate of infection and number of cases dropped significantly since the mandatory health pass went into effect on Aug. 9 and as the French rushed to pharmacies and vaccination outposts to get the jab.
The latest figures from the Health Ministry, as of Sept. 13, report that 49,556,778 people have received at least one dose of the vaccine. To date, 6,917,460 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in France along with 115,752 fatalities.