PARIS — When French President Emmanuel Macron announced a mandatory health pass last month — requiring vaccination, immunity or a recent coronavirus test to access trains, restaurants and other venues — pharmacy worker Agnès Biblot felt an immediate impact in the eastern French city of Nancy. Within days, interest in getting vaccinated surged.

Two weeks later the vaccine-skeptical nation celebrated hitting its end-of-August target for the number of first shots — more than one month ahead of schedule.

But at Biblot’s pharmacy, the enthusiasm took a sudden and unexpected hit. On July 24, panicked staffers and pedestrians had to take shelter behind the shop windows, some of them struggling to breathe through the tear gas that floated in the air. Outside, a small group of protesters attacked and dismantled a coronavirus testing site that had been set up in a tent. They attempted to shatter a window of the pharmacy.

“We’re still afraid,” Biblot said this past week. The pharmacy has resumed offering vaccinations and coronavirus tests. But Biblot said she and her co-workers keep asking themselves what will happen during the next protests.

On Saturday, France’s Interior Ministry said more than 230,000 people joined protests across the country against the restrictions, which are set to take full effect Monday.

Some of those demonstrating work in industries directly affected by new government policies: nurses who oppose a vaccine mandate for health-care workers, and restaurant employees who object to being asked to enforce health pass requirements.

The protesters also include people who express more generalized exasperation, who say they have had enough of what they characterize as government overreach. Both in France and in Germany, some protesters — rallying alongside far-right activists — have accused their governments of resembling the Nazi regime.

In an interview published this past week, Macron called the protesters’ attitude “a threat to democracy.”

Officials in the European countries that have recently imposed or discussed near-mandates — including Germany and Italy — see the public on their side. They cite broad support for restrictions on unvaccinated people.

Acceptance of coronavirus vaccines has been on the rise in many previously skeptical nations, including France. Though less than half of those surveyed in France last year said they wanted to get vaccinated, more 65 percent have now received a first shot.

Meanwhile, support for anti-mandate protests remains limited. Whereas France’s “yellow vest” movement and its objections to inequality were cheered on by more than two-thirds of the population at their peak in 2018, only about a third agree with the current protesters’ demands.

But governments have been surprised by the size of the protests, especially in Paris, which tends to be quiet in August. And a string of attacks on vaccination centers, death threats against politicians and social media chatter about further violent actions have alarmed security officials and experts.

“There’s a risk of an emotionalization or an escalation,” said extremism researcher Julia Ebner. She added that there are signs of a strengthened “alliance between vaccination opponents and right-wing extremists” amid the recent debate over vaccine mandates in Europe.

In an internal memo last month, analysts with France’s Interior Ministry reportedly warned that “the longer the conflict lasts, the greater the risk that the most determined, followed by the most radical, manage to take control,” as was the case with the yellow vest movement.

At a protest in central Paris on Saturday, women in headscarves and fathers carrying their children marched alongside monarchy supporters and people who compared the vaccine passport to genocide and apartheid.

Emmanuelle, who brought her 5-year-old daughter to the protest, said she will refuse to send her children to school if vaccinations are made mandatory there. “It’s out of the question,” said the 43-year-old protester, who gave only her first name.

Another protester who identified himself only by his first name, André, said attacks on vaccination centers “wouldn’t be bad” as long as nobody gets injured. He carried a sign that read “Death to Macronistan,” a reference to Macron.

Both protesters spoke on the condition that their last names not be used because of privacy concerns.

Compared with the yellow vest protests, the demonstrators this time tend to be younger and more urban, said Antoine Bristielle, a public opinion researcher with the Jean-Jaurès Foundation.

Extremism researchers are worried that far-right groups may be seeking to exploit the rallies as recruiting grounds, as they have tried — in some cases successfully — in Germany since last year.

Anti-lockdown protesters sparked widespread condemnation last August when they breached police barricades and made their way onto the steps of the German parliament building, the Reichstag, in Berlin. They appeared to have been incited by false rumors that President Donald Trump had arrived in the German capital to free them from what they viewed as a “dictatorship” of coronavirus restrictions.

Since then, Germany’s Querdenker group — a loose affiliation of pandemic skeptics that unites homeopathy advocates and people trivializing the Holocaust — has become smaller but more hardened in its beliefs, said Josef Holnburger, co-director at CeMAS, a nonprofit that focuses on right-wing extremism and conspiracy ideologies.

Holnburger said some who initially joined the rallies may have changed their minds after seeing friends or colleagues contract the coronavirus or get vaccinated. “But those who are still most present in the group have built up a distorted version of reality and are also becoming more radicalized,” he said.

In April, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency announced that parts of the Querdenker group would be put under observation. The agency says the group may pose a risk to democracy by delegitimizing the state and by increasing ties to violent extremists.

Berlin saw another round of violent protests last weekend, amid the country’s widening debate over how many privileges vaccinated people should receive and whether children should get the shots.

Both in Germany and in France, upcoming elections have loomed over the recent discourse, with a general election scheduled in Germany next month and France already focused on next spring’s presidential election.

France’s far-left political leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon has called for the protesters to be “understood and respected.” French far-right leader Marine Le Pen and her counterparts in Germany have also echoed some of the protesters’ demands, with Le Pen calling Macron’s health pass plans a “serious setback for individual freedoms.” 

But the violence and the limited public support for the protests have diminished the appetite of the main far-right parties in Germany and France — Alternative for Germany and National Rally — to throw their full weight behind the protests. Neither party has so far benefited electorally from the coronavirus pandemic.

Anti-vaccine groups are also seeking to influence the public debate beyond the coronavirus, according to researchers monitoring their online discourse. Some are mobilizing against migrants. Others claim that lockdowns will be imposed to fight climate change, said Till Baaken, an extremism researcher with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue in Germany.

Querdenker members and sympathizers descended on a western German region hit by flooding last month, driving a vehicle that resembled a police van and spreading false information through loudspeakers that appeared to imitate official announcements. Among them were people claiming to be former soldiers and police officers, who have vowed to shield protesters from the police.

After a protester died of a heart attack shortly after he was detained by police in Berlin on Sunday, the movement portrayed him as the “first death of the resistance.”

“You read things like ‘We can no longer be peaceful’ and ‘The era of the peaceful demonstrations is over,’ ” Holnburger said of the group’s social media posts in the wake of the protester’s death.

“More radical language online can translate into action on the streets, and we’ve seen this before, whether it’s the storming of the Reichstag steps in Berlin or the storming of the Capitol in D.C.,” he said.

Brady reported from Berlin.