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EXPLAINED: France’s Covid vaccine policy on third-dose, health pass and under 12s

Close-up image of a syringe filled with Covid-19 vaccine going into an older person's arm
Covid vaccine boosters are available to some groups in France. Photo: Thomas Coex / AFP
According to government figures, 90 percent of adults in France have received at least one dose of the Covid vaccine - but attention is now turning to booster shots and vaccines for children. Here's what we know about the next stage of the vaccination campaign.

Latest government data shows that 90 percent of adults in France have had at least one dose of the vaccine while 88 percent are fully vaccinated, with a similar overall level of vaccination for the total eligible population – those aged 12 and over.

But attention has now shifted to the campaign for third dose ‘booster shots’, as well as the question of vaccinating under 12s and the health pass.

Here is what we know, what we don’t know, and what we will soon find out:

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Who is eligible for a booster shot?

Some 2.5 million people, out of 6.8 million eligible people in France, have had a third dose of Covid-19 vaccine, according to latest government figures.

For now only the following groups of people are currently eligible for a booster dose in France: 

  • Those aged over 65 or who suffer from a serious medical condition who had their first jabs at least six months ago;
  • Those who have not had Covid – people who contracted the virus after their first or second dose do not need a booster dose, French medical regulator the Haute Autorite de Santé (HAS) has ruled;
  • Healthcare workers who had their initial doses more than six months ago. Right now, a booster jab is not compulsory for this sector.

If you meet those criteria, you can book your appointment directly either by phone, online or via the Doctolib app.

What about everyone else?

The European Medicines Agency has recommended booster shots for all adults. The French government has yet to extend the booster programme beyond those already listed, but it could do in the near future. 

An HAS statement from September leaned towards boosters for all, saying that the decline in the effectiveness of vaccines over time “does not only affect the elderly and populations at risk of severe forms”, even if these populations “remain the most affected”. 

But it has yet to offer its formal opinion on which the government will base its decision. That is expected in the next few days.

Since France did not begin vaccinating the majority of under 55s until May and June, most people will not be eligible for a booster until December.

Will the health pass be dependent on having a third dose?

Rules over the health pass – and a possible extension – are being debated in parliament as the Assemblée nationale and the Senate tussle over the length of the extension. 

So, we don’t know what the medium-to-long-term future of the pass sanitaire is right now. Assuming it remains applicable beyond the current November 15th deadline, it may be extended to include a third-dose requirement.

Some MPs are in favour of extending health pass rules to include a third-dose requirement, despite likely opposition from anti-vaxxers and France’s anti-pass contingent.

“It would be legitimate to question the validity of the pass after more than six months post-vaccination if you are, for example, over 70 years old or have severe diabetes, the studies attest that there would be a risk of no longer being sufficiently protected against severe forms,” Health Minister Olivier Véran said.

There are also privacy concerns – any under-65s who have currently had a third dose qualify through a serious illness or risk of co-morbidity, which could be seen as breaking doctor-patient confidentiality if that information is published on a health pass.

One final problem… an epidemiologist and professor of public health at the University Hospital of Lille who has had his third jab told Francetvinfo that entering his booster shot QR code into the TousAntiCovid app caused it to crash.

And what about children?

The vaccination of children from age five upwards has already started in USA, while in France only children aged 12 and over are eligible.

The European Medicines Agency is expected to reach a decision in mid-December on whether children from the age of five can be safely injected with the two-dose Pfizer vaccine.

Once the EMA has issued its advice, it would again be up to the French government – advised by the HAS – to decide whether to extend the vaccination programme to all over 5s.


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