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HEALTH

Is France likely to introduce a ‘vaccine passport’ for travel or leisure?

As France opens a consultation on the issue of 'vaccine passports' we look at the arguments around the subject.

Is France likely to introduce a 'vaccine passport' for travel or leisure?
Photo: AFP

Ministers in Switzerland and Israel have been discussing the idea of a vaccine passport for travellers, while the issue will also be discussed at an EU level at the next European Council meeting, but in France there has been a more cautious reception.

There is no current plan for vaccine passports, but several government sources have told French media that the idea is being discussed.

The French government on Wednesday opened up an online consultation so that people can have their say. Find out how to get involved here for the consultation, which runs until March 7th.

 

Here's what the stumbling blocks are likely to be:

Too soon

Transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, asked about vaccine passports, declared the discussion “premature”.

He told a tourism summit: “The idea of restricting movement to only people who are vaccinated is a debate that seems premature to us – you have 4 to 5 percent of the European population vaccinated, the most vulnerable people and not those who are likely to travel a lot. Making travel conditional on being vaccinated is an ethical issue and not a small one.”

While some countries including Israel are forging ahead with their vaccine plans, Europe is moving at a slower pace so the number of people who could benefit from vaccine passports is at present low. As Djebbari pointed out, at present this mostly includes people who may not be likely to travel anyway such as nursing home residents and those with severe medical conditions.

France's vaccine rollout, after a very slow start, is beginning to pick up speed but the general population who don't fall into priority groups such as the elderly, the ill or keyworkers are unlikely to be offered the vaccine before late spring/early summer. 

Scientific consensus

The idea of a vaccine passport is an appealing one in that it allows countries to keep control their borders while also receiving the economic benefits of travel, but it's also something that has not been widely tried before, so there is a lack of evidence on how it works.

New variants of Covid are likely to continue to emerge and it is not clear exactly low long vaccines offer protection for.

“We don't know what the protective capacity of vaccines is over time – six months, a year? Is it really certain that people who are vaccinated no longer transmit the virus? And what about future variants, which could make a vaccine ineffective,” a health ministry source told French TV channel BFM.

The French government is likely to want more evidence of exactly how much protection a vaccine passport offers before reopening its borders.

Fairness

The majority of the population in France have not yet been offered the vaccine, so ministers are concerned that blocking people from certain activities when they currently have no option to be vaccinated is unfair.

Europe Minister Clément Beaune said on France Info: “It would be shocking, while this vaccination campaign is still underway everywhere in Europe, that there would be more rights for some people than for others. This is not our conception of protection and access to vaccines.”

Culture minister Roselyn Bachelot, speaking on France 2, put it in stronger terms, saying: “I remain opposed to the vaccination passport, which I believe is an infringement of our freedoms.

“As a freedom-lover, I can hardly imagine it! If it came to that, it would be a step backwards.”

Despite this, a poll for newspaper Le Parisien showed that 60 percent of people were in favour of the general idea of vaccine passports for the purposes of international travel.

Coercion

The Covid vaccine is not compulsory in France, and this is a sensitive issue for the country.

France has a historically high level of vaccine scepticism and this has not changed during the pandemic, with at one point 60 percent of people telling pollsters that they did not intend to be vaccinated – a huge problem for the country since immunity requires a minimum of 60 percent of the population to be vaccinated.

Polling conducted since the vaccine rollout began has seen a fall in scepticism, with now around half of people saying they definitely intend to be vaccinated and a larger percentage saying only that they have some doubts or questions about the vaccine but might choose to be vaccinated anyway.

READ ALSO How worried does France need to be about its vaccine sceptics?

Nevertheless it remains a delicate issue and ministers want to avoid any suggestion that people are being coerced into getting vaccinated – vaccine targets in France are spoken of in terms of 'offering' the vaccine to those who want it.

The idea of having a vaccine passport – particularly for non-travel related services such as accessing cultural venues, sports centres or even bars – has been described by some as an “attack on liberty”, since it may be seen as compelling people to be vaccinated.

Consultation

None of this is to say that a vaccine passport will not happen, but people who are lucky enough to have been vaccinated should probably not count on it happening in the short term.

It is also likely that there would need to be extensive debate and consultation, given the ethical issues raised, of which the online consultation is only the first step.

A spokesman for Health Minister Olivier Véran said: “This question is profoundly societal and political, and there will therefore be consultation, one way or another.”

 

Member comments

  1. The Google ads and banners on your sites are becoming more prevalent, obtrusive and annoying.

  2. If people who’ve received the covid injection wish to carry around a passport advertising they’ve had the injection, that’s their prerogative, but I don’t agree with it.
    If I’m forced to carry around such passport to prove what injections or vaccines I’ve had in my life, then it’s an infringement of my freedom.

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HEALTH

French vocab and prices: Your guide to visiting the dentist in France

From finding a dentist to treatment costs, plus the crucial bits of French vocab, here's everything you need to know about visiting the dentist in France.

French vocab and prices: Your guide to visiting the dentist in France

The dentist – as unjustly dreaded in France as they are anywhere else in the world.

But, while few, if any, of us enjoy visiting our friendly, neighbourhood chirurgien-dentiste, we all know that it’s important to care for our teeth and gums, so here’s what you need to know.

How to make an appointment

A simple web search for a dentiste or chirurgien-dentiste will bring up the contact details of local professionals. Then it’s a case of ringing up to make an appointment. There is no need to be registered with a dentist, you can visit anyone who has a free appointment, although you may prefer to keep your appointments with the same person if you are  having ongoing treatment.

Alternatively, sites such as Doctolib may allow you to book a slot online.

If you’re worried about remembering your French verb conjugation while you have a mouth full of blood, Doctolib also lets you know which languages your dentist speaks.

READ ALSO How to use the French medical website Doctolib

How much it costs

The government-set going rate for a dental check-up is €23 for dentists working in the public health system – which most do. As a result, 70 percent of that fee, paid at the time of the consultation, will be reimbursed for anyone who holds a carte vitale.

Check-ups last as long as the dentist needs to examine your teeth. If no additional work is required, it’s just a few minutes in the chair.

If you require additional work, then how much you pay goes up – along with the time it takes. A basic filling, for example, costs €26.97, of which €18.88 is reimbursed. Descaling adds €28.92 to the initial bill, but is again partially reimbursed.

The upfront cost of root canal work on a molar, meanwhile, is €81.94, while extraction of a permanent tooth costs €33.44. 

The full price list is available on the Ameli website.

For any procedure that costs more than €70, your dentist will provide you with a written estimate, along with a number of options. 

Remember, these prices are for dentists operating in the state sector. Fees at private practices are higher.

What about crowns, implants or dentures?

Your dentist might offer you the option of a crown or implant instead of the basic treatments of fillings and extractions, but these are expensive and are usually not covered on the carte vitale, so here whether or not you have a mutuelle is important.

The top-up health cover known as a mutuelle – find more details here – will generally offer dental cover, but exactly what is covered depends on your policy.

If you require special treatment, make sure to consult the price list, as you will often have to pay up front before you can claim anything back. 

Dental hygienist/teeth-cleaning

If you like to visit the dentist regularly for a scale and polish you will need to check whether your dentist’s cabinet employs a hygiéniste dentaire (dental hygienist).

Most practices do but not all. If you’re going to a new practice it’s generally better to make an appointment first with the dentist for a check-up, and then ask for regular hygienist appointments.

Useful vocabulary

Dental surgery – un cabinet dentaire

Emergency dentist – un dentiste de service

I would like to make an appointment – je voudrais prendre un rendez-vous

I would like a check-up – je voudrais une visite de contrôle

It is an emergency – c’est une urgence

A tooth – une dent

Wisdom teeth – les dents de sagesse

A filling – une plombage or un pansement

une dévitalisation – root canal

I have broken a tooth – je me suis cassé une dent

I have a toothache – j’ai mal aux dents

My gums are bleeding – Mes gencives saignent

I have a cavity – J’ai une carie

My gums hurt – J’ai mal aux gencives

This one hurts – Celle-là me fait mal

These ones hurt – Celles-là me font mal

An abscess – Percer un abcès

Nerve – le nerf

An extraction – une extraction

Injection – une injection/une piqûre

Local anaesthetic – une anesthésie locale

Denture/s – les dentier/s or une prothèse dentaire/les prothèses dentaires

A crown – une couronne

A bridge – un bridge

ARRRRRRGH – AIIIIIIIIE (hopefully you won’t need this one)

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