When King Louis XVI, his two brothers and his sister-in-law were inoculated against smallpox in 18th-century France, the public worried about the risks. Though the experiment was a success, even sparking a new type of hairstyle, the doubts never went away. As vaccines took off during the 19th century, the age of Pasteur, so did resistance, apathy and distrust.
A similar challenge faces French President Emmanuel Macron, who’s holed up in the Elysee Palace after testing positive for COVID-19, triggering knock-on quarantines for several European leaders. He’s scrambling to prepare his country, exhausted by repeated lockdowns, for vaccines against SARS-CoV-2. Getting it right in France, where vaccine hesitancy is high and faith in institutions bruised, will be a critical test case for Europe.