‘Safer and protected’ – how people in France feel about using the health passport

'Safer and protected' - how people in France feel about using the health passport
Photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP
The weekly protests against France's health passport have grabbed many of the headlines. But away from the roughly 200,000 people on the streets, how does the rest of France feel about using the pass to enter cafés and restaurants?

Protestors have taken to the streets weekly since the announcement of the health passport, and although turnout has dwindled in recent weeks, last Saturday still saw an estimated 160,000 people take part in hundreds of demos around France.

On the other hand, around 12 million people have had the injection since the announcement of the introduction of the health passport on July 12th.

But how do people feel about using it for daily activities?

We asked our readers in France – both residents and people who had visited over the summer – how the pass was working for them, and their views on it.

READ ALSO A step-by-step guide to getting the French health passport

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See also on The Local:

An anti health passport demonstration in Toulouse, south west France. Photo by Fred SCHEIBER / AFP

Practicality

The health passport can be presented either on paper or on the TousAntiCovid app and can show one of three things – fully vaccinated status, recent recovery from Covid or a recent negative Covid test.

READ ALSO How the French health passport works

It must be shown to gain entry to a wide variety of locations including tourist sites, museums, cinemas, long-distance trains, bars and cafés, where venue staff scan the pass with their own app, known as TousAntiCovid verif.

The vast majority of survey respondents reported no problems in using the pass and no issues in getting it scanned at health passport venues. 

The majority of respondents used the app and the simple phone-to-phone scan takes just seconds to perform.

Richard Simpson, of Deux-Sevrès in south west France, said: “No problems at all. It’s scanned off my iPhone within seconds of arriving at a café or restaurant.”

Mike Fowler said: “My wife and I are on a two week holiday in Bordeaux and have used the ‘passport’ dozens of times. Never has there been a problem. Well done France!”

Linda Susan Rice, of Bordeaux, added: “It’s been quick and easy and my friends and family from the UK have also found it easy to use.” 

Alan Wood, Haute-Vienne, said: “I use the paper format and have had no problems with that.”

Visitors

Of the people who did report problems, most were those who had been vaccinated outside France – either visitors or recent arrivals.

Since its introduction at the end of July, the health passport has undergone several modifications so that it is now compatible with vaccination certificates from England, Wales, the EU and Schengen zone countries.

Those who were vaccinated outside the EU (including Scotland and Northern Ireland which do not use the NHS app) need to apply for a French code in order to use the health passport – here’s how that works.

Holly Dale, in Paris, said: “My main problem was having a paper vaccination certificate (from New Zealand). Finally after two months of trying the latest system has worked and I’ve been able to convert it to a French one.”

Visitor Sarah Blackford said: “I tried to use at it at the hotel we stayed at on our first night in France to book breakfast. My QR code was not known. Our host is a good English speaker but didn’t understand the message to push verify my QR code. At this point he gave up and let us book breakfast. Haven’t dared to use it since.”

But plenty of other visitors – especially from England and Wales – reported more success.

William Noble said: “I have had no problem using it even though my vaccinations were carried out in England. I carry around a printed version and one on the AntiCovid app on my iPhone. If it persuades some of those less inclined to have the vaccination then it is a good thing.”

Feelings

But using something because it’s compulsory is not the same as loving or even supporting it. During the two lockdowns French residents used millions of attestations de déplacement to leave their homes, but it’s probably fair to say that no-one ever got attached to their daily form.

So we also asked people how they feel about the health passport – do they use is begrudgingly, support the general idea or enthusiastically embrace it?

John Walton, who has used it in Clermont, Lyon and Sancerre over the summer declared himself “utterly delighted to be protected!”

Overall, dozens of respondents said the passport made them feel safer.

Stephanie Coffin in Paris said: “I love it. I feel much safer knowing that everyone next to me is either vaccinated or negative.”

Sue Hopkins, in south west France said: “It’s a brilliant idea and makes you feel safer knowing people are fully vaccinated. Haven’t heard anyone complaining about it.”

Paul Griffiths, who lives in the Var département of southern France, said: “I am most strongly in favour of the scheme. Given the widespread reluctance and refusal to vaccinate, for whatever reasons, it is a practical, medical-driven approach to ensuring the safety of the population in general.

“Let the current comparison of vaccination and hospital ICU statistics speak for itself. In my personal circle (French & anglophone), the majority of the people I know are vaccinated and ‘passport-happy’, a small number continue to prevaricate about being vaccinated, and I have not directly encountered anyone complaining about having to use the passport.”

Justin Pace in Paris said: “Let’s not sugarcoat this. We are in a global health crisis. Period. If you look at other pandemic examples related to vaccine rollout and adhering to protocol set by governments, there has been less of an issue. The issue rests with media profiting off of fear and false information and the politicians that also profit off of this.

“Should the government have full control of its citizens? No. Is it entering into a dystopian world? Yes. Do I agree with what France is doing by making the health passport mandatory for activities, meaning that selfish people who wouldn’t get the vaccine before are now having to get it? Yes 100 percent.”

Dora Biloux in south of France said: “I never thought I’d be a person being okay with a tracking system by the government. But. This is a pandemic.

“If it weren’t for the health passport, we would have had so much less freedom, more stress, more aggression in society even. It’s a pity though that often the hospitality staff is grumpy/uncomfortable about having to ask for your pass. The rare occasions where staff was light and jokey about it were a treat. I guess they, and all of us, will have to get used to it because I don’t see that this is going away in the coming couple of years.”

Just one respondent told us that they had not used the health passport and would refuse to do so.

Vaccination rates

We also asked readers if the health passport had made any difference to their vaccination status, since one of the stated aims of the pass was to boost vaccination rates by making pleasurable activities like drinking in a café with friends inconvenient for the unvaccinated.

Of those who replied, 94 percent were fully vaccinated before the pass came in.

Among the others, 3.5 percent said they got vaccinated after the pass came in, but had been planning to do so anyway, one percent said that passport had pushed them to get vaccinated and 1.5 percent said they were unvaccinated and intended to remain so.

France opened up vaccination to all adults from May 31st, and to the 12-18 age group from June 15th. The booster shot programme for over 65s and those in high risk groups opened on September 1st.

Many thanks to everyone who took the time to fill in our survey and share their views and experiences.


Member comments

  1. The numbers tell the story. Since Macron started the program , cases and deaths have dropped dramatically, even as they go up in the rest of the world. If only the US had such wisdom and courage.

  2. According to the survey results , only1% were persuaded to get vaccinated by the introduction of the pass. Since, according to the Govt the whole raison d’etre of the pass was to force the unvaccinated to get vaccinated it looks as though that particular glass ceiling has yet to crack.

    1. And in December 2020, only 40% in a survey said they were willing to be vaccinated. Today, according to the TousAntiCovid app, 80% have been FULLY-vaccinated. And your point about surveys is….?

      In the week after the announcement, about 4 million people signed up to be vaccinated; at that time, the sign-up rate had been falling and the weekly rate was much much lower. The trend graphs in the app show the rate has been more-or-constant (at around 0,5 million per week (eyeballed estimate, 1st jab)) for at least the past two weeks.

      There’s still work to do, such as getting the 20% or so who still haven’t been vaccinated vaccinated (which is nowheres near as bad as the 60% who’d said they wouldn’t be vaccinated), and, eventually, vaccinating children (once the vaccines are authorised-for, and available-to, children).

      And as an aside, WHAT survey (“only 1% were persuaded to get vaccinated by the introduction of the pass”)? Some quick searching, albeit in English, has failed to find any such claim.

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