Booking the appointment
For many, this is the hardest bit, with appointment slots scarce in many areas. If you’re not in a priority group and you find a free appointment within the next 24 hours, you are entitled to book it. There are various websites and apps that can help you with this – full details HERE.
We’ve spoken to lots of people who have been for a vaccine and it seems that no two centres have the exact same process, and things can vary even within the same town, so don’t expect your experience to be identical to that of others. As ever in France, it can depend on where you are, what day it is and whether your vaccinator is having a good day.
Most people who have had their appointment have reported a surprisingly paperwork-free process (by French standards) with the health ministry saying that people who are eligible through a comorbidité (an illness that puts you are higher risk of developing the most severe forms of Covid – find the full list of qualifying conditions here) do not need to provide proof of this, a simple declaration will suffice.
Most vaccine centres seem to be sticking to this, but if you have doctor’s letters referring to your condition, it wouldn’t hurt to take them along just in case.
Most people won’t need to take a test before their appointment, but if you have had Covid within the last three months then you will need a recent (within 72 hours) negative test with you on appointment day. Take along your positive test from when you had Covid too, and you may only need a single dose of the double-dose vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca), this depends on your health conditions though, so ask to discuss it with the person who gives you your vaccine.
If you are pregnant you can get the vaccine, but not within the first three months of your pregnancy. Some pharmacies do not offer the vaccine to pregnant women, so you may be better going to your GP or a vaccine centre.
Although appointments are opening up and plenty of people are snatching last-minute doses, a pre-booked appointment is still necessary. We’ve heard stories of people showing up at the end of the day hoping for spare doses, or tagging along with mates who have appointments, and while some of these people have been successful, others haven’t and the official policy is that you cannot just turn up without an appointment.
Paperwork on the day
Everyone, French or not, is required to present some ID at their appointment, so make sure you have a recognised piece of French ID with you (passport, residency card etc) and you will also need to show your appointment confirmation – an email or text message is fine for this.
The vaccine is open to anyone living in France, whatever their nationality and people who are not yet registered in the French medical system with a carte vitale are entitled to get it too. However the process is set up with carte vitale holders in mind – some centres ask you to show the card, others require you to fill in a form with your social security number. It is possible to get the vaccine without these things, but you may need to argue your case – we have put together this guide for people who do not yet have the cards.
Most centres will check your temperature as you enter to ensure that you are not running a fever. If you develop any of the symptoms of Covid – fever, cough etc – in the days before your appointment you should cancel as you will not be able to get the vaccine while you are showing any Covid symptoms.
Before getting the vaccine you will be asked a set of standard health questions, in most places this involves filling out a simple questionnaire. Questions include whether you have any Covid symptoms, whether you have been in recent contact with an infected person, whether you have severe allergies or blood-clotting problems and (for women) whether you are pregnant.
You will also be asked whether you are happy to be vaccinated today and whether you want to see a doctor before your injection.
For most people the appointment will be conducted in French. If you’re not confident about your French, you can check out our vaccine vocab guide or, if you prefer an English-speaking medic you can use the app DoctoLib to find out which doctors in your area speak English, and then book an appointment with them. This will probably mean you will have to wait longer for an appointment, however.
Also expect casual chat, most people report that vaccine centres are quite jolly places with staff keen to swap jokes and banter with their patients so don’t be surprised if your vaccinator starts asking you about yourself and where you are from – it’s not an interrogation, they are just being friendly.
The physical process varies depending on whether you are at a pharmacy, GP surgery or vaccine centre, but in the larger vaccine centres expect to move through several stages of registration, questionnaire and waiting area before the needle actually comes out.
The person giving you the injection will ask in advance if you have any concerns or anything you want to discuss and, if not, go ahead and jab you. Despite the agonised expression on the face of French PM Jean Castex when he got his shot, it really doesn’t hurt.
Your vaccinator might be the health minister himself, pictured below working in a vaccine centre (don’t worry, he is a fully qualified doctor) but is more likely to be either a doctor, nurse, medical student, midwife, pharmacist, paramedic or firefighter.
Pour nous protéger, pour protéger les autres, pour que nous puissions reprendre une vie normale.
Partout en 🇫🇷, des femmes et des hommes œuvrent à cette immense bataille. De tout cœur, merci. pic.twitter.com/ltKDU2P0tT
— Olivier Véran (@olivierveran) May 11, 2021
After the injection you have to wait 15 minutes in an observed waiting area so staff can check that you don’t suffer any side-effects. Depending on the type of vaccine you were given you may also be given advice on side-effects to watch out for.
If you’re at a vaccine centre you should generally allow about 45 minutes for the whole process, although it can take longer during busy times. Appointments at pharmacies and GPs tend to be quicker.
Centres are now starting to issue formal certificates of vaccination, with a QR code that can be scanned into the TousAntiCovid app. This is a recent development, so not all centres are issuing them just yet, although the will become standard in the weeks to come.
— Emma Pearson (@LocalFR_Emma) May 11, 2021
If you weren’t given a certificate, don’t panic – you can access it from mid May via your online Ameli account. If you don’t have an Ameli account here is how to set one up and if you don’t have a carte vitale here is what the health ministry advises.