Around 3,000 health workers in France have been suspended, reportedly without pay, for failing to get vaccinated against COVID-19 ahead of a deadline this week to have at least one jab.
It comes as care workers in England must get their first vaccine dose by today and be double jabbed by 11 November to keep their jobs.
Countries around Europe are weighing up how far to go to combat the COVID pandemic.
On Wednesday, the French government made vaccinations mandatory for all health workers and care home staff, but a top court has ruled they cannot be sacked outright.
French health minister Olivier Veran said the suspensions were being brought in temporarily to show citizens that the “vaccination mandate is a reality”.
He told RTL radio: “It hasn’t been chaos, far from it.
“Most of the suspensions are only temporary, many have decided to get vaccinated as they see that the vaccination mandate is a reality.”
He added that “several dozens” had resigned rather than sign up for the jabs, French media reported.
However, the government’s move has sparked a backlash from unions, who fear the care sector could be plunged into crisis by a loss of workers.
Emmanuel Chignon, a care home manager in Bordeaux, warned it was already difficult to hire staff in the sector.
He said: “If we can’t replace the carers who leave, the work will fall on the others, and I fear an unvirtuous circle, with tiredness, exhaustion and an increase in absenteeism.”
Nearly 450 health workers – out of 7,500 – were suspended in a hospital in Nice, and the Paris hospital system said 340 staff had been suspended, according to reports.
Other countries around Europe are said to be also considering penalties for workers who fail to get jabbed ahead of the winter period looming.
The Italian government is reportedly going to bring in a new “Green Pass” scheme, which will involve all public and private sector workers being required to show either proof of vaccination, a negative test or recent recovery from infection.
If they do not have a Green Pass, they will be suspended and lose their pay, but cannot be sacked, according to a draft of the decree seen by the Reuters news agency.
People who ignore the decree and go to work regardless will face a fine of €600-€1,500 (£511-£1,280).
While some EU countries have ordered their health workers to get vaccines, none have made the Green Pass mandatory for all employees, making Italy a test case for the continent.
The Dutch government has said it will introduce a “corona” pass showing proof of vaccination to go to bars, restaurants, clubs or cultural events.