As the French government launches a consultation on the idea of vaccine passports, we decided to ask our readers what they think.
Due to the slow rollout of the French vaccine programme – which has been plagued with problems including a shortage of appointments for those in eligible groups – there are no immediate plans to introduce vaccine passports for either travel or access to leisure services, but even the suggestion has sparked controversy, with several government ministers saying they would be opposed to the idea.
Ministers and experts have raised concern over the lack of evidence that vaccine passports allow for a safe reopening of borders, along with concerns about fairness and whether the passports act as a type of coercion for people to take what is supposed to be a voluntary vaccine.
Among readers of The Local, however, few people expressed concerns and respondents to our survey were overwhelming in favour.
Many readers of The Local living in France have not seen family in other countries for over a year now, while a significant proportion own second homes in France which they have not been able to visit all year.
Many are therefore desperate to travel, and feel that vaccine passports offer the correct balance between opening up borders and keeping the country safe from further waves of infection.
Overall, 75.7 percent of the 120 people who responded to the survey said they were in favour of the idea, and 81.8 percent said they would sign up if France introduced the scheme.
David, who lives in the southern French département of Aveyron, said: “It would help ensure safer, more confident travel for everyone and hence reopen borders. Vaccination against yellow fever, smallpox, etc are already compulsory for entry to certain countries – and even for enrolling children in schools – so why all the fuss about an anti-Covid ‘passport’?”
Steve Duckworth, who lives in Haut-Rhin, added: “The basis of vaccination is to protect others as much as protecting yourself. Vaccination certificates are already required for, for example, yellow fever if you travel to tropical countries. So what is the problem? With all the people who have died with, or have been badly affected by Covid, giving up a very small part of personal freedom is a small price to pay.”
Asger Hansen, who lives in Nice, said: “For me, it is a societal duty to be vaccinated. We are already seeing in different countries and major cities how the reluctance to vaccinate supports the spread of Covid-19. It is also obvious that those individuals who have been vaccinated should be able to use their Covid immunity to travel, to attend gatherings etc.”
Louise Philipps in Paris simply said: “It’s a no-brainer – allows countries to open up borders and restart the economy.”
While much French and international media focuses on vaccine passports in the context of holidays, The Local’s readers were much more likely to want to travel for family reasons.
Louise McTavish, who lives in Massy, said: “My parents haven’t been able to see my six-year-old daughter since last year. They are very close, both my parents have had the two doses and so it seems unfair that they cannot come and see their granddaughter despite being vaccinated.”
Jayne, from Manchester, said: “I live in the UK and my partner is in France. I would be more than happy to have vaccine passport so we can continue our relationship.”
While Gill Lavérie in Paris said: “I just want to see my parents in the UK, they have been vaccinated and I would be happy to show proof of vaccination if it meant I could travel.”
For people working within the tourist sector, the idea of a vaccine passport means the long-awaited return of international tourists.
Nik Burrell said: “I run a small cycle hire business near Limoux and I am desperate to have some sort of a rental season this year.”
Of the people who were against the idea two main themes emerged – people who doubted whether vaccine passports would work and people concerned that they amount to ‘forcing’ people to have the vaccine.
A significant group also said they felt sorry for people who have not been vaccinated yet.
Tracy Laparde said: “It is against the person’s unalienable rights as a human being. Vaccinations are not suitable for everyone and should be a personal choice.”
Louise Godwin pointed out: “Not everyone is able to have the vaccine, like my husband who suffers from Stephen Johnsons Syndrome. It’s unfair and takes away your rights.”
No countries have so far succeeded in vaccinating their entire populations – Israel is currently leading the pack for the percentage of people vaccinated, but varying rollout speeds mean that readers in the UK or the USA were more likely to have had at least one injection than those based in France.
Beverly Eagan said: “I think it would be a good idea after the vaccine has been available to everyone in France who wants a vaccination.
“Until that time, it would be divisive, unfair, and counter to the spirit of égalité. A portion of the population (65 to 74) is already feeling left out. If the vaccinated are offered a vaccine passport now, it strengthens the feeling of a “vaccinated class.” That might be acceptable in the USA, but it does not fit the classless goal of France.”
France aims to have offered a vaccine to everyone who wants one by the end of August and it seems unlikely that vaccine passports would be introduced while a significant proportion of the country is still waiting for the injection.
Anyone travelling to France needs to also bear in mind the travel rules currently in place, which limits travel – particularly from outside the EU.