It is an image that has made the rounds of US TVs and the front page of many news from around the world.
Joe Biden and his vice-president Kamala Harris all smiles and without masks behind a desk in the gardens of the White House.
As the symbol of a first victory against the Covid-19.
A "big day" for the American president who announced it bluntly: "If you are completely vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask!
This decision comes from the main federal public health agency and concerns the 35% of the American population who received either the single dose of the vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, or the two doses of the vaccines from Moderna or Pfizer / BioNTech.
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More than 117 million people can now participate "in indoor and outdoor activities [...] without wearing a mask or respecting physical distancing", in the words of Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for the prevention and fight against diseases (CDC). The only exception to this rule: the health authorities always recommend that vaccinated people continue to wear protection in transport (planes, buses, trains, etc.) as well as in airports and train stations.
Seen from France, this major decision arouses as much hope as concerns. For Professor Philippe Juvin, head of the emergency department of the Pompidou hospital and LR mayor of La Garenne-Colombes, “it is a good decision which reflects the fact that the United States has reached a level of vaccination of its population. much higher than ours ”. The head of the Federation of General Practitioners Jacques Battistoni also sees it as a "logical decision", "because when you are vaccinated, the risk of getting infected is very low".
But the latter admits dubious about the "signal" that this sends to the population.
"How to differentiate in the public space between vaccinated people who will have the right not to wear the mask and those who do without because they no longer want to wear it but are not vaccinated?
he wonders, refocusing the debate on France.
As long as the bulk of the French population does not have easy access to vaccination, everyone should endeavor to lead by example.
"We tell them roughly: if you want to get back to the life before, it will go through vaccination"
Member of the Academy of Medicine, François Bricaire finds this decision both "dangerous" and "premature". "If we start to relax the barrier gestures, the situation could get out of hand," worries the former head of the infectious diseases department of the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital. Some doctors have also noted that Joe Biden had taken good care in his speech to encourage his unvaccinated fellow citizens to do so as quickly as possible.
"This decision is above all an initiative to relaunch the vaccination campaign which is starting to slow down in the United States," estimates infectious disease specialist Anne-Claude Crémieux.
And this is taking place in a political context where certain American states have long opposed the wearing of compulsory masks ”.
At the beginning of March, the Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, even announced the end of the wearing of the compulsory mask in his state.
The epidemiologist Jonathan Roux shares the analysis of the message addressed to the Americans: “We tell them roughly:
if you want to find the life of before, that will pass by the vaccination.
And as one of the most important symbols of a normal life, it is the non-wearing of the mask… ”
"It's a very risky bet"
For French specialists, this strategy is perilous. "It is a very risky bet because the current context is extremely unstable on a global level with the appearance of variants which can always surprise us and it is to be feared that many citizens lower their guard on barrier gestures".
Does the question of an immediate abandonment of the mask arise in France? "The effect of vaccines on reducing contagiousness remains uncertain although more and more data from real-life experiments indicate the existence of a notable positive effect of vaccination on the transmission of the virus," replied. -on to the Directorate General of Health (DGS). However, in the absence of consolidated data and therefore of "zero risk", it is imperative to continue, at this stage and as a precautionary measure, compliance with barrier gestures (wearing a mask, distancing, etc.), even when you have been vaccinated, regardless of the vaccine. "
“With 13.5% of the population fully vaccinated in France, we are anyway at much lower levels than the United States, recalls Jonathan Roux.
But there is beginning to be a debate on the interest of wearing the mask outdoors where the risk of contamination is lower.
To read also Alain Fischer in front of our readers: "The objective, to remove the mask by the end of the summer"
"There will undoubtedly be an intermediate phase between the compulsory whole and zero mask," said Philippe Juvin. In an exchange with our readers last week, Alain Fischer, the government's Mister Vaccine, estimated that the French should be able to put their masks in the closet for good by the end of the summer. But the DGS specifies that “some prefects have already started to lift the obligation to wear a mask outdoors under certain conditions. This is particularly the case in the Alpes-Maritimes where it is no longer compulsory to wear the mask in urban green spaces or along the coast. "