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Reader question: How can people who cannot be vaccinated use France’s vaccine pass?

With a vaccine pass required for a range of everyday activities in France including visiting bars, cinemas or going on long-distance train trips, what is the situation for those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons?

A doctor fills a syring with an anti-Covid vaccine.
A doctor fills a syring with an anti-Covid vaccine. In France, some people can obtain a medical exemption to vaccination and continue using the health pass. (Photo: Fred Tanneau/AFP)

Question: I have a serious medical problem that means I cannot be vaccinated, does that mean I have to accept having a severely restricted lifestyle in France for the foreseeable future?

The French government has been clear since it introduced the health passport that one of the goals is to push people into getting the vaccine, by making life more complicated for the unvaccinated.

This will become stricter when France’s health pass becomes a vaccine pass, with no option for the unvaccinated to get tested instead.

The general principle is that activities like working (with the exception of certain professions), commuting or visiting shops do not need a health or vaccine pass, but for anything fun like getting dinner and drinks with friends, going to the theatre or cinema or getting a train to another part of France, the pass is required. 

But what about those who might want to be vaccinated but cannot for medical reasons?

The Decree that enshrined the health passport into law back in the summer does contain provision for those who cannot be vaccinated.

It is possible to obtain a certificate from your doctor declaring your status as unvaccinated for medical reasons – but only if you fit one of the conditions outlined in the decree.

Those who fit these criteria can obtain an attestation de contre-indication from their doctor.

The decree introducing the vaccine pass adds some detail to this.

Individual doctors can issue an attestation de contre-indication if the patient fits one of the listed criteria below. The patient then sends the attestation to Assurance Maladie, who check the conditions and then issue a QR code that can be scanned into the Tous Anti Covid app and uses as a vaccine pass in order the access bars, cafés etc. 

The conditions outlined by the decree to qualify for this are;

  • A documented history of allergy to one of the components of the vaccines
  • Anaphylaxis of at least grade 2 after the first dose injection
  • A documented history of capillary leakage problems
  • History of pediatric multi-systemic inflammatory syndrome after suffering from Covid
  • A recommendation following a multi-disciplinary medical consultation not to administer a second dose following a severe reaction to the first dose eg myocarditis, Guillan-Barré syndrome

There are also some conditions that have a temporary medical contra-indication

  • Treatment with anti-SARS-CoV-2 monoclonal antibodies
  • Myocarditis or pericarditis that occurred prior to vaccination and is still evolving

For people with severely compromised immune systems, such as cancer patients, the general advice is to get vaccinated, and many have been given an extra dose of the vaccine – in addition to the booster – to ensure adequate protection.

Pregnant women are advised to get the vaccination since there is increasing evidence that pregnant women are more likely to develop the most severe forms of the virus – pregnant cabinet minister Olivia Gregoire was  vaccinated live on TV by her colleague Olivier Véran in order to highlight the need for mothers-to-be to get vaccinated.

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical advice – if you are in any doubt about whether you should get vaccinated, or have concerns about side effects, you should of course consult your doctor.

Member comments

  1. Hi — I’m in the US, traveling to Paris in early September. On Aug. 10, I emailed the signed form, passport, CDC vaccination certification, etc. to the email address provided in your article and by my hotel in Paris in order to get uploaded into the health pass system. I immediately received a computer generated response saying my email and attachments had been received, but nothing since. Anyone with anything to share on them actually getting back with the health pass QR code and all that? Thanks. Jeff

    1. I don’t believe they’re processing health pass QR codes via email anymore. Your best bet is to visit a pharmacy upon arrival, and have them convert your CDC-issued vaccine card into a QR code, which you can then upload into the TousAntiCovid app. The entire process took less than five minutes for us at our local pharmacy in Nice, FR.

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COVID-19 VACCINES

France approves new vaccines for Covid Omicron sub-variants

France's health authority said Tuesday it had approved three new vaccines against the prevalent Omicron sub-variants of the Covid-19 virus, in a bid to prevent a jump in infections as colder weather approaches.

France approves new vaccines for Covid Omicron sub-variants

The so-called “bivalent: shots, approved by the European Medicines Agency earlier this month, target the BA.1, BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants, now responsible for the bulk of new cases since the outbreak began worldwide in early 2020.

French authorities are urging at-risk patients — including those over 60 or adults with pre-existing conditions — to get the bivalent vaccines as part of its booster campaign.

“The number of infections has again started rising in the past few days,” the HAS health authority said, noting that the BA.5 sub-variant was causing the most new cases.

The new vaccine targeting the highly contagious BA.4 and BA.5 types is made by Pfizer and BioNTech, while jabs from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are for BA.1.

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