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COVID-19 VACCINES

What does Macron’s announcement change for France’s Covid vaccine boosters?

Emmanuel Macron has announced two big changes to the booster shot programme for the Covid vaccine in France - here's what we know and when the changes come into force.

Vaccine booster France
Covid vaccine boosters. Photo: Thomas Coex/AFP

At present the following groups are eligible for a booster shot in France;

  • Over 65s
  • Those with serious illnesses
  • Those with health conditions that increase the risk of developing the most serious forms of Covid (eg obesity, diabetes or respiratory conditions). Find full details of qualifying medical conditions here.
  • Those in close contact with an immunodeficient person
  • Healthcare workers and domestic carers
  • People who had the single-dose Johnson & Johnson (or Janssen) vaccine

The booster is given six months after the last vaccine dose, so those in eligible groups need to wait until six months has passed since their last shot.

Once they become eligible they can book a booster dose directly at a vaccine centre, GP or pharmacy. There is no need for an invitation.

Boosters are given with Pfizer, although the French health regulator (HAS) has recommended that Moderna can also be used, but only for over 30s.

From December

From the “beginning of December” – Macron did not given an exact date – this will be expanded to include all over 50s, provided the necessary six months have elapsed.

Under 50s will not qualify for a booster shot, unless they meet one of the other criteria.

READ ALSO What Macron’s announcement changes for Covid boosters

Health pass

Macron also included a push towards getting the third dose by linking, for the first time, booster shots to the health pass.

The health pass, which is required to access venues including bars, cafés, restaurants, leisure centres, tourist sites and long-distance trains, needs either proof of recent recovery from Covid, a negative Covid test or proof of vaccination.

At present two doses is enough, but from December 15th this will change and those aged over 65 who are eligible for a third dose but who have not yet had one will no longer show up as ‘fully vaccinated’ on the health pass.

Those under 65 can continue to use the health pass as normal, even if they qualify for a booster through another factor. Trying to link all boosters to the health pass was judged too complicated and – in the case of those who qualify through medical conditions – a possible breach of medical confidentiality.

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal clarified on Wednesday that health passes for the over 65s will be automatically deactivated six months and five weeks after the date of their last injection. So over 65s who are not yet eligible for a booster under the six-month rule can continue to use their pass after December 15th.

What don’t we know

Over the past 18 months, most big changes to Covid-related rules have been announced in broad brush-strokes by the president or prime minister, with the details clarified in the following days by the relevant ministries, so there are some parts of this announcement that are still not clear.

Not made clear was the technical aspect of validating the health pass for people who have already had their booster dose – although readers of The Local who have had the booster have reported that they simply scanned the QR code on their new certificate into the TousAntiCovid app for an updated pass.

The date of opening up vaccines to the 50-64 age group is yet to be announced, along with details of whether over 50s can book now for an advanced date.

We also don’t know what this means for visitors aged over 65 from outside France who need to access the health pass.

We will update this story as soon as we know more.

Member comments

  1. Had my booster today, under 65 with underlying health condition. Received a new EU COVID certificate before leaving, 3/3 when I entered it on the anti COVID app confetti appeared and a new message fully vaccinated. Hope this info helps others.

  2. I believe that if you had the Janssen vaccine the waiting period for the booster shot is four weeks not six months.

  3. We made reservations for the booster shot for Saturday. In the Netherlands the authorities are still dithering about whether to give boosters and when and how, and if people will accept it etc etc whilst here in France the government just gets on and does its job. We feel much safer, also with the health pass.

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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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