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Reader question: How can I add a non-EU booster shot to my French health pass?

Booster shots are now required in order to have a valid health or vaccine pass in France, but is it possible to add booster shots received in the USA, Canada or other non-EU countries to the French health pass?

Vaccinations given outside the EU need to be converted to a French code.
Vaccinations given outside the EU need to be converted to a French code. Photo by SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

Question: I’m Canadian and travelled to France over the summer, when I got a French health pass. I’ve since had my booster back in Canada but I can’t seem to add the booster shot to the French health pass, which means it will shortly deactivate. How do I keep the pass up to date?

France’s health pass – shortly to become a vaccine pass – works with vaccination certificates from any EU or Schengen zone country, or the UK.

However those who were vaccinated outside of Europe must convert their vaccination certificates to an EU-compatible code in order to use the French pass.

The system for how to do this has changed several times since health passes were introduced over the summer, and now requires a trip to a pharmacy in France – click HERE for the full details.

However there is a new wrinkle – booster shots are now required in order to keep the health pass activated and there is a timetable for deactivating the passes of people who are eligible for a booster shot but don’t get one – click here for the full schedule.

If you got your booster shot in France, the EU, Schengen zone or UK then adding the booster shot to the health pass is easy – just scan in the code on the certificate.

If, however, your booster was received in a non-EU country, you will need to take the booster shot certificate to a French pharmacy in order the get the QR code needed to upload it to the app.

If your pass deactivates before you can get back to France this is not a problem, simply uploading the new certificate code will reactivate it.

But how do you get into France in order to visit the pharmacy and get the code if your pass has already expired?

This is important – the booster shot requirement refers only to the domestic French health pass that you use to get into bars, cafés etc.

In order to enter the country no booster is currently required. You need only to show proof of two doses of AstraZeneca, Pfizer or Moderna, or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson (Janssen).

At the border you can show your home country’s vaccination certificate (eg the Canadian certificate), there is no requirement to have the French QR code.

Once you’re in France, you then head to the pharmacy to get the code to give you access to France’s excellent restaurants, cafés and cultural venues. 

Member comments

  1. I know the French don’t care, but this system is an insult to frequent, loyal visitors to France who jumped through all of their hoops to get our original passes. Now we are boosted but must start from square one when we return (we visit 4 times per year).

  2. My booster appears as a 3rd QR code on my NHS England certificate. I scanned it on to my Tous Anti Covid app and it was accepted. (I also rescanned the old ones as it seems Tous Anti Covid has caught up with the fact that each NHS England certificate is only valid for 30 days at a time so, somewhat irritatingly, it is necessary generate new certificates and re-scan them)

  3. Nick 76- you are lucky to live in the U.K. and have the benefit of electronic vaccine records. Americans were given a flimsy paper record with no electronic interface possible. It’s a system that does not befit a first world nation, but that’s all we got. US people have gone to great lengths to obtain the Pass Sanitaire. It is now apparently easily obtainable at a French pharmacy, which many of us who navigated the former anxiety provoking process now appreciate. It’s much more straightforward. I can only wonder, with the transmissibility of the Omicron variant, how many of these restrictions for travelers are useful and how many are pure theater. The testing on both ends of a trip, particularly the return, are producing endless anxiety and curtailing travel, as Americans are fearful of being stranded overseas.
    Normality will not return until it truly does, and all of these measures (tests, passes, etc.) are eliminated.

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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.