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Viral Quote Slamming Anti-Vaxxers Not Really From French President Macron, but Might as Well Have Been

Emmanuel Macron makes a stern face.

A quote attributed to French President Emmanuel Macron has been making the rounds online, with people celebrating his no-nonsense approach to those unwilling to get the COVID-19 vaccine. “I no longer have any intention of sacrificing my life, my time, my freedom and the adolescence of my daughters, as well as their right to study properly, for those who refuse to be vaccinated,” the quote reads. “This time you stay at home, not us.”

Unfortunately, the quote appears to be fake—or at least falsely attributed.

The speech—which has been circulating without a source, in the form of a screengrab of text—has been getting a huge reaction online, and that makes sense. It’s the kind of speech you want to be real, that resonates in your bones. It’s what many of us want to say to our anti-vaxxer neighbors.

The message is especially satisfying when contrasted with another article that went viral recently, insisting that we coddle these sensitive “vaccine-resisters” because they “can’t be persuaded if they feel disrespected.”

For those of us who spent more than a year staying inside, masking up, not seeing our friends or family, and are now fully vaccinated only to face the risk of the highly contagious and dangerous delta variant, we don’t want to coddle the anti-vaxxers. We want to say, “We cannot make those who have the civic sense to get vaccinated bear the burden of inconvenience.” The vaccine is, as that misattributed Macron quote reads, “part of your sense of duty.”

So where did this screengrab actually come from?

It appears that the false attribution to Macron is an issue of translation. The quote looks to have originated with an Instagram post from an Italian journalist named Selvaggia Lucarelli, who the Italian newspaper Il Dolomiti describes as “the spokesperson for many Italians who fear the return of Covid and restrictions due to those who have not been vaccinated for the autumn.”

Lucarelli seems (and I say seems because Google translate is doing a lot of heavy lifting here) to have posted a quote or a summary of a quote from Macron and added her own commentary about not wanting to make any more sacrifices for those unwilling to be vaccinated. (This explains the strange “adolescence of my daughters” comment since, as many have pointed out, Macron doesn’t have any young daughters, only adult step-children.)

But the speech Lucarelli is referencing is real, and Macron did in fact introduce severe restrictions for unvaccinated people in France.

Macron gave his speech earlier this month, just before the country’s Bastille Day celebrations. In it, he announced that all medical and non-medical staff, both professional and volunteer, who work with elderly or otherwise vulnerable people, are now required to be vaccinated. Macron also extended the requirement of a vaccine certificate (what we’ve come to know as a “vaccine passport”) for “places of leisure and culture”: concerts, festivals, amusement parks, etc.

He also announced plans to pass a new law requiring proof of vaccination to enter “cafes, restaurants, shopping centers, as well as in hospitals, retirement homes, medico-social establishments but also in planes, trains and coaches for long journeys.”

“Here again,” Macron said on July 12, “only the vaccinated and those tested negative will be able to access these places, whether they are also customers, users or employees.”

Additionally, the COVID-19 test will no longer be free.

What appears to have happened is that, with Lucarelli translating the speech from French to Italian and adding her own commentary, when others then translated that post to English (and didn’t provide a source), it all got jumbled up as being attributed to Macron.

Still, Macron’s speech does have some good lines of its own. “Everywhere, we will have the same approach,” he said. “Recognize good citizenship and put restrictions on the unvaccinated rather than on everyone.”

While many are writing the whole speech off as fake news thanks to the confusion, the important takeaway is that France is cracking down hard on anti-vaxxers. And it does appear to be working. There have been massive protests across the country, with more than 100,000 people showing up to voice their opposition to the mandate. But there’s also been a huge, immediate increase in requests for vaccination appointments. According to the Associated Press, more than a million people signed up for appointments the day after Macron’s speech.

So sure, maybe anti-vaxxers here in America are tired of being socially shamed and they’d like everyone to be more sensitive to their feelings. But there’s really zero evidence that doing so would actually convince them to get the shot, rather than just allow them to feel more comfortable in their decision to place everyone else at greater risk. The real question is why do their feelings get to supersede everyone else’s safety?

As a French government spokesman told the AP, the vaccine mandate for health care workers wasn’t meant to “stigmatize” them, “but to limit risks to the vulnerable populations they care for.”

I’m with Lucarelli. Or Macron. Or whoever it was: “We cannot make those who have the civic sense to get vaccinated bear the burden of inconvenience.”

“This time you stay home, not us.”

(image: STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP via Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.