The US Embassy in Paris has issued a warning, saying it “strongly recommends” that Americans do not travel to France until they have received a booster shot.
This comes after numerous readers of The Local had raised issues over the vaccine pass.
What are we talking about?
This relates to the vaccine pass, in operation since January 24th and required to gain access to venues including bars, cafés, gyms, leisure centres, tourist sites, museums, cinemas, ski lifts and long-distance trains, and problems refer to people either vaccinated or tested in the USA.
It does not apply to the rules of entry to France. At the border you can use your American CDC card as proof of vaccination. Vaccine boosters shots are not required to enter France.
However, once you’re here you will probably want to visit a few cafés or tourist sites, or travel on a TGV train, which is where the vaccine pass comes in.
How do I get a vaccine pass?
Many countries issue vaccination certificates which are compatible with the French vaccine pass, but unfortunately the US is not one of them.
That means if you were vaccinated in the US, once you are here in France you will need to visit a pharmacy in order to swap your vaccination certificate for a QR code that the French pass will read – full details on the process HERE.
Do I need a booster to use the pass?
You might, yes, since France in many instances requires a booster shot to be considered ‘fully vaccinated’.
If you have already received your booster shot then you are fine.
If you have not had a booster and more than seven months has passed since your last shot, you are no longer considered ‘fully vaccinated’ and cannot get a vaccine pass. This does not apply to entry to France.
On February 15th this limit is cut to four months. After that date if you have not had a booster and four months has passed since your second shot, you cannot get the pass. If you have already had the booster then the four-month limit does not apply to you.
The four-month limit is likely to pose a problem for visitors from many countries where boosters are not routinely offered after such a short gap, which includes most US states.
The Local has raised this issue with French authorities.
What about children?
Children under the age of 12 do not require any type of pass.
Children aged between 12 and 15 can use the health pass – this means that a negative Covid test, performed within the previous 24 hours, can be accepted for entry to vaccine pass venues if the child is not fully vaccinated.
Children aged between 16 and 18 need a vaccine pass, but do not require a booster in order to be considered fully vaccinated. If they are vaccinated with Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca they will need to have had the full course of two shots, and be at least 7 days after the second shot.
Over 18s require the vaccine pass with boosters as described above.
Are there any other options if I’m not ‘vaccinated enough’ for the French?
Alternatives are limited. Under the old heath pass system, people had the option of presenting a negative Covid test instead, but this is no longer accepted as France moves to push more people into getting vaccinated.
There is an option for a Certificate of medical exemption – we explain that in full here but the process is so complicated as to be virtually inaccessible to those who don’t live in France.
The final option is proof of recent recovery from Covid (see below).
What if I have recently had Covid?
For those not vaccinated, the French vaccine pass also accepts a positive Covid test certificate that is more than 11 days old but less than six months old. Those who are vaccinated but caught Covid before they could get the booster are also able to show a recent positive test instead instead of a booster shot certificate.
However, there is a problem here for anyone who tested positive in the USA – and it again relates to the lack of a QR code on the majority of American test certificates.
If you caught Covid while in France or another EU country, your positive test result (antigen or PCR) certificate will have a QR code on it that can be scanned for the vaccine pass.
A number of non-EU countries also provide tests recognised by the bloc. These include: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Cape Verde, El Salvador, the Faroe Islands, Georgia, Israel, Iceland, Lebanon, Lichtenstein, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Panama, San Marino, Serbia, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tunisia, Togo, Turkey, Ukraine, the UAE, the United Kingdom, Uruguay and Vatican City.
Unfortunately, however, the USA is not on on this list, and the lack of a QR code on certificates is a barrier to any agreement being put in place on mutual recognition of certificates.
Your best hope is to go to a French testing site with proof that you tested positive overseas and politely ask one of the staff if they are able to issue you with a QR code. Some readers report having successfully done this, but be aware that it’s not a required service.
Where can I go without the vaccine pass?
Not all venues in France require a vaccine pass – without one you can enter; shops, most workplaces (with the exception of cinemas, theatres etc that require the pass for visitors), short-distance trains and city public transport such as the Paris Metro, parks and gardens, outdoor gyms and beaches.
What does the Embassy say?
The US Embassy in Paris told us: “Current Covid-related US and French guidelines put into place for the protection of its citizens and travellers can differ.
“These include timelines for boosters (rappels) and what constitutes a valid certificate of recovery from Covid. In addition, requirements for entry into France differ from the requirements for a “pass vaccinal.” As a result, American tourists in France might find themselves unable to obtain the necessary documentation to access museums, restaurants, TGV and other spaces.
“We strongly recommend that US citizens not travel to France until they have received a booster in the US and that they review information provided by the French government regarding requirements at the time of travel (for both entry and access to public spaces) before they purchase tickets to travel.”
Further info can be found HERE.
The Local has raised these issues relating to the vaccine pass with French authorities and we will update this article when we receive further information.