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Macron’s inept vaccine roll out under the looming threat of yet another lockdown shows he is a prisoner to ineffective technocracy

The French President has spent a lifetime believing in the power of the state and yet in this time of crisis he has been forced to turn to the private sector to help distribute the vaccine. This is a damning logistical failure.

Emmanuel Macron is a technocrat molded by France’s elite and highly selective Ecole Nationale d’Administration School. Their graduates are specifically destined to serve in positions of management and leadership in the French state. One gets the impression that Macron truly believes in leveraging the power of the state for good. Yet every time he has turned to its supposedly formidable levers during the Covid-19 pandemic, he has discovered that nothing works as advertised.

France is perennially cited as having one of the highest social security taxation rates in the world. Those funds are theoretically supposed to fund the health care system. A pandemic proves the ultimate test of how that money has been spent by the state and whether the French are getting sufficient bang for their buck. If there was a directly proportional relationship between social security taxation and government health care response to the Covid-19 crisis, the French state should rank at the very top of the national performance rankings by country.

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Instead, we’re being continually tormented by French government officials who refuse to rule out locking down the country a third time, or imposing a widespread 6pm curfew that has already been implemented in several regions – effectively another house arrest scheme that barely allows you to even finish a workday. All this despite vaccines now being available.

The government has no right at this point to force the French to continue paying the price for the incompetence of a system that they fund with a disproportionately high proportion of their hard won earnings. Back in March when the pandemic first hit, a lack of masks due to the government having liquidated its strategic stocks contributed to the first two month lockdown that only allowed a single hour outside of the home per day. And now, once again, despite the availability of vaccines that ultimately will allow lives and the French economy to return to normal, the French people are being fed excuses for why their government is failing to perform to the level of excellence that one would expect of taxpayers’ princely investment.

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As of January 8, in the entire nation of France (67 million people) 45,500 people have been vaccinated with the first of two required Covid shots. Meanwhile, the single west coast Canadian province of British Columbia, population 5 million, has administered 41,064 doses.

In private remarks, Macron has compared the pacing in France to that of a “family stroll”, according to the Journal du Dimanche. He apparently also keeps comparing the health crisis to that of a war, as he has repeatedly done publicly, and himself to a wartime president.

If that’s indeed the case, then the words often attributed to French General Napoleon Bonaparte are relevant to the “war” against Covid: “Amateurs discuss tactics: the professionals discuss logistics.” As are those of American General (turned President) Dwight Eisenhower: “You will not find it difficult to prove that battles, campaigns, and even wars have been won or lost primarily because of logistics.” Or General George S. Patton’s wisdom: “Gentlemen, the officer who doesn’t know his communications and supply as well as his tactics is totally useless.”

France’s vaccine rollout is gummed up in logistics – and along with it, France’s supply chain in fighting this particular war. It’s the equivalent of being on the frontlines of the battle and having no bullets or weapons. It seems like these military types consider logistics pretty important. So why isn’t the French military in charge of the vaccine rollout? Have they even been asked to take a short break from liquidating jihadists in Africa to help with the virus war back home?  Why does the French government feel that it needs to turn to private consultants like McKinsey for logistic analysis, as has been reported , when it has an entire war department that specializes in it? If this is a war, then McKinsey is the equivalent of a private security contractor.

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The conversation in France has now turned to a search for reasons justifying the logistical failure, such as the supposed problem presented by the need to maintain the vaccines currently available at extreme temperatures of -70C right up until their point of use. Later vaccines, not yet available for use, apparently won’t have the same problem. The whole discussion is moot when other countries have managed to overcome the temperature/conservation challenges. Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain are, by far, the current global leaders for vaccines administered per 100 people, according to Our World in Data (OWID) based at Oxford University. 

If any single country is capable of overcoming vaccine logistic challenges – and several of them seem to be – then the French state is the real problem. The French people have paid a high price for a very poor return on investment during this crisis – both through excessive taxation to fund this health care failure and via repeated lockdowns to accommodate government incompetence.

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