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EXPLAINED: How visitors to France can get a French health pass at pharmacies

Officially anyway, tourists in France can exchange their vaccination certificates for a French health pass at certain pharmacies, but many have struggled to do it. Here's how to go about it according to someone who has managed it.

EXPLAINED: How visitors to France can get a French health pass at pharmacies
Photo: VALERY HACHE / AFP.

Getting a medical professional to exchange your vaccination certificate for a French one is currently the only way people vaccinated in the United States, Canada and many other non-EU countries are able to access the French health pass without taking a Covid test every two days, or without proof they have already had the virus.

But The Local reported yesterday that people vaccinated in the US had been having trouble finding a pharmacy willing or able to do this, with some readers visiting up to ten pharmacies to no avail.

Readers from the UK also reported difficulties convincing venue staff to accept their NHS certificates, so getting a French health pass and QR code at a pharmacy could be a safer option for Brits who have the possibility.

READ ALSO ‘I’ve been to 8 pharmacies’: Visitors to France report struggles with Covid health passes

Journalist John Walton, who lives in the Loire in central France, tweeted a step-by-step guide on Tuesday to how he was able to help his British partner to obtain a French certificate.

Walton suggested larger pharmacies would be more likely to have access to the necessary computer system, something other readers have also reported. Walton recommended finding a pharmacy listed as a vaccination centre on the Vite Ma Dose platform, as well as bringing a bilingual friend to help explain the process to the pharmacists.

Walton began by explaining the different information you will need to provide, including an email address and a French address and phone number. Some of our American readers have told us pharmacies accepted their Airbnb or hotel address.

READ ALSO Can tourists use France’s health passport to access museums, cafés and trains?

Next, the pharmacist will have to enter the details of your jab (vaccine type and batch number), and Walton warned readers that the “autre lot” option must be selected in order to enter a foreign batch number.

Next, Walton explained, you will need to enter the place where you were vaccinated (using the post code 99 to find foreign locations), and your date of vaccination.

In theory, people vaccinated in the UK should not need to go through this process, but not all of those working in venues requiring the health pass are aware that NHS certificates and the NHS app are valid in France.

It is now possible to upload an NHS vaccine certificate to the French health pass app. However, the QR codes generated are not currently compatible with the TousAntiCovid Verif app used by venues to check health passes.

Meanwhile, with no official instructions from the French government, the American Embassy in Paris stated on July 21st: “At this time, the Embassy is not aware of the extent to which it is still possible to have the U.S. information entered into the French system.”

The French health pass, available on paper or through the TousAntiCovid app, is currently required for culture and leisure venues of more than 50 people, including cinemas, museums and other tourist sites. From August 9th, it is set to be extended to bars, cafés, restaurants, and long-distance train and bus travel.

Member comments

  1. I am in Nice. There’s a woman at the Pharmacie de la Cathédrale in the old city who knows exactly what to do. Handed her my US card and had the pass 10 minutes later!

  2. Thank you to John Walton for that helpful information! I’m going to type up our information for each step so I can hand it to the pharmacist with our vaccination cards. Has anyone used the tent setup at the Hôtel de Ville? Our apartment will be near there. Elaine Parker, [email protected]

      1. Thanks! Even closer to the apt. Did they give you a card or anything? Did they help you load the QR on your phone?

        1. They give you a print out of your QR code. You need to download the app then you scan the code into the app. Couldn’t be easier

          1. We are about 2 hrs from Paris by train. We wondered if my husband is able to take my information along with his to be completed, or do both parties have to be present to complete the process?
            Any insight would be appreciated.

  3. Americans should note that in France the date is written day/month/year. My American card says my first jab was 1/14/21, January 14, but the pharmacist in France will enter that as 14/1/21.

    1. I’ve always said that governments worldwide get on board to end this confusion once and for all! It’s especially confusing in N. American hospitals….where both are often used interchangeably.

  4. Agreed, it’s just a matter of finding someone who knows how to do it and is willing to do it. I was lucky. It only took 10 min to get mine

  5. Has anyone had any luck in Rennes? We are Canadian and went directly to the covid vaccine centre to see whether they could help. Absolutely no help there, they told us to call the Canadian embassy, which by the way doesn’t accept phone calls, only emails. We have emailed with no response.
    Any direction would be helpful!

    1. I have emailed the CDN Consulate to suggest that they contact (on our behalf) the French officials to suggest that they open some type of booth at CDG to transcribe our CDN Vax Certificates into the QR pass…..right as we get off the plane.

      They said: “Unfortunately, the govt of CDA cannot interfere in French affairs. That being said, we work very closely with the French authorities on this matter.”

      UNBELIEVABLE! “Can’t interfere”, yet ,”work very closely”!!

      All I did was make a SUGGESTION, yet they won’t work with us!!

      Our wonderful tax dollars at work…..
      Cathy Poole

  6. I’m in Bayonne, in the Basque Country. I worked with the Pharmacie de la Nive in downtown Bayonne to convert my U.S. vaccination card into the French “pass sanitaire”. The instructions above were invaluable (thank you!). If you’re anywhere near here, they should be able to help you as they’re quite friendly. Two details: make sure they know that Americans write MM/DD/YYYY rather than DD/MM/YYYY as the French do. Also, we had to leave the code of the vaccination center *blank* to get it to work. Good luck!

  7. @kwendell78 – that is the hospital near Notre Dame, right? If so, where do you go inside the building? is there a specific department? Is there a specific entrance? Do I need to make an appointment?

    Please advise, thanks.
    Ken

  8. I was able to get my US CDC card changed into a QR code in Paris at Pharmacie Place de l’Opera, 1 rue Auber. I have sent many friends there as well and they have all had no issues. It is 20€ though. Some pharmacies are doing it for free or cheaper, but if you are desperate that’s a sure bet. You only need your CDC card, and you can bring someone else’s card and get the QR code for them (a friend with me got hers and her husband’s at the same time even though he wasn’t there).

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READER QUESTIONS

Vaccine pass for visitors in France – your questions answered

France now has in place a vaccine pass that is required for entry into a wide range of everyday venues including bars, cafés, tourist sites and long-distance trains - but this can be complicated for visitors or people vaccinated outside France.

Vaccine pass for visitors in France - your questions answered
Bars and cafés are among the French venues that require a vaccine pass. Photo: Sameer Al Doumy/AFP

Since January 24th, France has put in place a vaccine pass which is required to enter a wide range of venues including bars, cafés, restaurants, gyms, leisure centres, cinemas, theatres, museums, large events and long-distance trains.

In short, if you intend to spend time in France, you are going to need one if you want to do anything fun.

Previously a health pass was in place, which allowed for either proof of vaccination or a recent negative test, but from January 24th negative tests are no longer accepted for anyone aged 16 and older.

You can find more details on how the pass works HERE, but there are some issues which particularly affect tourists, visitors or people vaccinated outside France.

Do I need a vaccine pass to enter France?

No. When the French government talks about the vaccine pass, they mean the domestic pass required to access everyday activities in France.

Depending on where you are travelling from, you may need to show proof of vaccination at the border, but this can be a vaccination certificate from your home country.

Once you’re in France, however, you will most likely need the pass. 

How do I get a vaccine pass?

The vaccine pass isn’t a physical document, it just means that you need to show proof of either vaccination, recent recovery from Covid or a medical exemption in order to enter certain venues (more on those below).

Importantly, however, these documents must have a French QR code so that staff in venues can scan them.

Most people use the TousAntiCovid app, which is available on all smartphones and has an option in English, but you can show paper certificates if you prefer.

If you are travelling from an EU or Schengen zone country you can use your own country’s domestic health/vaccine pass, since all QR codes are compatible within the bloc.

I had a health pass when I came to France in the summer, is the vaccine pass the same thing?

In effect, yes. The health pass required either proof of vaccination, proof of recent recovery from Covid or proof of a recent negative Covid test and most people used the TousAntiCovid app to show this (although you can also show paper certificates).

The vaccine pass doesn’t allow presentation of a negative test result, but in most other respects is the same, so if you have proof of full vaccination, nothing changes for you. Apart, that is, from boosters . . .

Do I need a booster shot to use the vaccine pass?

Probably, yes.

It depends on when you were vaccinated, but over 18s who have not had a booster more than seven months after their second dose are no longer counted as fully vaccinated. 

From February 15th, this window shrinks to four months.

If you have had the booster, it doesn’t matter if the gap between second dose and booster was longer than four or seven months, this concerns only those who have not received a booster shot.

The booster requirement applies to all vaccine pass users, including visitors.

However boosters are not required for travel, so in brief you can enter France without a booster, but you won’t be able to do much once you’re here.

Full details on who needs a booster HERE.

Will my vaccination certificate/booster shot certificate work with the French pass?

It depends on where you were vaccinated.

If you were vaccinated in the EU, Schengen zone or UK then you can scan the QR code on your vaccination certificate straight into the French app. This is also the case if you previously had a health pass and need to add a booster shot in order to keep it valid.

If, however, you were vaccinated in the USA, Canada, Australia or any other non EU/UK/Schengen country then things are a little more complicated. Once in France, you will have to take your vaccination certificate to an approved pharmacy in order to get a QR code that can be used with the French app. Full details HERE.

A vaccination certificate from your home country will be accepted at the border.

I’m not vaccinated but I have recently recovered from Covid, can I use the pass?

The vaccine pass requires one of three things; proof of full Covid vaccination, proof of recent recovery from Covid or proof of a medical exemption (more on that below).

However, the proof of recent recovery must be in an accepted format.

You can find full details on that here, but again it depends on where you tested positive for Covid. If it was in the EU, UK or Schengen zone then you should be able to upload your positive Covid test to the French app. The test must be more than 11 days old, but less than six months old in order to be valid.

If you tested positive outside the EU, you may have a problem. Some countries provide positive tests in a format recognised by France but others – including the USA – do not.

You can find full details of compatible codes HERE.

I had Covid before I could get a booster, what should I do?

If you want to use proof of recent recovery from Covid instead of a booster shot, then it’s the same process as outlined above.

I can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons, what can I do?

France does provide an option for medical exemptions, but the process is so complicated as to be virtually inaccessible to people who are just visiting France.

READ ALSO How can people who cannot be vaccinated use France’s vaccine pass?

In order to use the medical exemption clause, you require a French certificat de contre-indication, and getting one of these is not easy.

First you must fit the criteria of listed medical conditions which constitute an acceptable reason not to be vaccinated – and that is a short list.

Then you need a certificate from a French doctor stating that you cannot be vaccinated, certificates from doctors outside France are not accepted.

Once you have the certificate you need to send it to Assurance Maladie – the French state health insurer – which validates the certificate and issues you with a QR code that can be used with the vaccine pass. French residents can use an online process to send their certificate to Assurance Maladie, but this requires a French social security number. 

Where can I go without a vaccine pass?

The theory behind the vaccine pass is that people can do the essentials of daily life without it, but anything fun requires the pass.

It is not required for shops, short-distance transport or city public transport such as the Paris Metro, most workplaces, parks, beaches and outdoor gyms or when buying food or drink to take out.

It is required for; ski lifts, bars, restaurants, cafés, cinemas, theatres, museums, galleries, tourist sites (including outdoor sites), gyms, leisure centres, sports grounds, concerts, nightclubs (when they reopen), large events like festivals or long-distance train travel.

Are there any exemptions?

There are a couple of exemptions where a negative Covid test, taken within the previous 24 hours, is accepted instead of a vaccine pass.

  • If you need to travel on a long-distance train and have “imperative reasons of a family or health nature” such as going to visit a dying relative – you would need to present some proof of this.
  • A vaccine pass is required to access non-emergency medical treatment or to visit a medical or social establishment (such as a nursing home). If you do not have a vaccine pass you can use a negative test instead. Emergency medical treatment does not require a vaccine pass or a Covid test.

What about children?

  • A vaccine pass is required for anyone aged 16 or above.
  • Children aged between 12 and 15 are required to use the health pass, in which a negative Covid test no more than 24 hours is accepted for those who are not fully vaccinated.
  • Under 12s do not require any type of pass.

The definition of fully vaccinated for children is the same as for adults; to be at least seven days after two doses of Pfizer, AstraZeneca or Moderna vaccines or 28 days after a Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Booster shots are not required for under 18s.

For children travelling from countries that have only recently started offering vaccinations to under 18s, or that only offer a single shot of Pfizer, AstraZeneca or Moderna, this creates a problem as the children are unvaccinated by the French definition and face daily Covid tests in order to keep the health pass.

Do all these venues really check the pass?

Staff at any of the listed vaccine pass venues are supposed to check the pass on entry, but as ever in life, compliance is not 100 percent.

The majority of places do check, especially in the cities, but it can be variable. We’ve also heard anecdotal accounts of staff accepting non-French vaccination certificates, especially the American CDC cards, but be aware that this is not official policy.

It’s probably best not to chance it on a train – guards can remove you from the train at the next stop if you are found to be travelling without a valid pass.

And if you’re tempted to use someone else’s pass in order to gain access to a bar/café etc then we would strongly advise against this – that is vaccine pass fraud and there are very stiff penalties in place for this, including jail time.

Do you have a question on vaccine passes that is not covered here? Email us on [email protected] and we will do our best to answer it.

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