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COVID-19 VACCINES

French health minister: If you’ve had Covid you may not need a booster for your vaccine pass

People who have had Covid may not need a booster shot in order the keep their vaccine pass active, the French health minister has announced.

Moderna syringes lie waiting for use in a Covid vaccination centre in France.
France has announced a shift in its 'one infection = one dose policy' (Photo by PHILIPPE LOPEZ / AFP)

Health minister Olivier Véran announced on Thursday that people who have been double vaccinated, but then caught Covid before they could get a booster shot, will not need the booster to keep their vaccine pass activated.

They can still get a booster – three months after their infection date – if they wish, but it will no longer be required for the vaccine pass.

Previously the government had stated that the booster was needed for everyone, even recently infected people, in order to maintain the vaccine pass that is required to enter a wide range of venues including bars, cafés, ski lifts, cinemas and long-distance trains.

France has a ‘one infection = one dose’ rule in place which means that having a bout of Covid is counted the same as a single dose of the vaccine.

So for example if you had Covid before the vaccine rollout began, you would have a single dose of AstraZeneca, Pfizer or Moderna, plus a booster so that one Covid plus two vaccines equals the required three ‘doses’.

Conversely, double vaccination followed by a bout of Covid also equals three doses.

“The immune system needs to be stimulated at least three times,” Véran told BFMTV – specifying that the timing of this ‘stimulation’ doesn’t matter. 

Janssen 

France requires people who have been injected with the single-dose Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine, to receive a top-up dose of either Pfizer or Moderna, followed by a booster when eligible, in order to keep their fully vaccinated status.

Under 18s 

People less than 18 years and 1 month old are not required to have received a booster dose (or third stimulation of the immune system) to use the vaccine pass. 

People under 16 do not use the vaccine pass at all, but instead are still on the old health pass system. This means that they do not necessarily need to be fully vaccinated and can use negative Covid test results as a substitute to enter health/vaccine pass venues. 

People under the age of 12 are not required to use any kind of pass. 

READ ALSO Vaccine pass: Travelling to France with children

When do I need to get a booster dose?

Under current rules, over 18s can get a booster dose three months after their second immune stimulation – whether this is from vaccination or infection. You have seven months to get a booster or your vaccine pass will be deactivated. 

From February 15th, you will need to get a booster within four months of your second immune stimulation to carry on using the vaccine pass.

Anyone who has had a booster will get a valid vaccine pass – even if more than four months passed between the second dose and the booster. The time limits refer only to people who have not been boosted. 

What about tourists and visitors? 

Booster doses are not required as a condition for entry into France. 

Tourists and visitors are however subject the vaccine pass rules, meaning that over 18s who have not had a booster may not be able to get a vaccine pass.

If you intend to rely on a previous infection rather than a booster, check that the positive test result from your home country is valid within the French system.

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Reader Question: Can I specify the dual-strain vaccine when getting my Covid booster in France?

At-risk populations in France are eligible for a second Covid-19 booster shot, but many are asking whether it is possible to specifically request one of the new dual-strain vaccines when booking.

Reader Question: Can I specify the dual-strain vaccine when getting my Covid booster in France?

Question: I am qualified, by age and by time elapsed since my first Covid booster, for a fourth shot. But I want to make sure that my fourth shot will be one of the new dual-strain vaccines. Is this possible?

French health authorities launched the autumn booster campaign on October 3rd, which includes newly authorised bivalent (dual-strain) vaccines – such as the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine adapted to BA.1, the Moderna vaccine adapted to BA.1, and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine adapted to BA.4/5 – which are designed to combat the Omicron variant.

France’s health authority, the Haut Autorité de Santé said in a press release on September 20th that “the expected clinical efficacy of these new dual-strain vaccines is at least equivalent or even superior to that of the original vaccines.”

READ MORE: When, where and how to get flu shots and Covid boosters this autumn in France

So is it possible to specify when booking that you want the dual-strain vaccine?

The Local spoke with representatives from the French ministry of health, who specified on Friday that “dual-strain (bivalent) vaccines will be injected as a priority during the autumn campaign in accordance with the HAS recommendations.”

For those who are eligible to renew their booster dose, it is therefore “not necessary to specify that they want a bivalent vaccine, since we will have enough doses for the entire target audience.”

France’s General Health Directorate told the Journal des Femmes that the two most commonly used vaccines for its fall campaign are “the Comirnaty Original/Omicron BA.4-5 vaccine (by Pfizer) and the Spikevax bivalent Original/ Omicron BA.1 vaccine (by Moderna).”

Data for the last two weeks show that of the 112,409 people in France who received a second booster dose, 77,715 were vaccinated with the new Pfizer dual-strain vaccine, and 34,694 were vaccinated with the new Moderna Omicron-adapted product – meaning that everyone got a dual-strain vaccine.

You can find the whole list of those who are eligible for a second (or third) booster HERE.

READ MORE: Reader Question: Can I get a third Covid booster shot in France?

Additionally, health authorities have been recommending that anyone who is eligible should receive their booster shot. 

Before the dual-strain vaccines were authorised, French health authorities recommended at-risk groups to receive booster vaccines as soon as possible, rather than waiting for the availability of the Omicron-adapted jabs.

“For people at risk, either the elderly or those with co-morbidities, it is necessary to give the fourth dose as long as the virus is circulating, and therefore as of now,” infectious diseases specialist Anne-Claude Crémieux told Le Parisien over the summer.

Crémieux added that vaccines not-adapted to Omicron subvariants have also “been proven to be effective against severe forms of the disease”.

If you have already had a booster with the original vaccine and now want an additional dual-strain booster this is possible, although you must wait either thee months (if you are over 80 or the resident of a nursing home) or six months (for other at-risk groups) after your most recent booster.

Additionally, TF1 reported on Friday that Santé publique France (France’s public health agency) was calling for an intensification of the ongoing vaccine campaign, because only 30.4 percent of 60-79 year olds had received their second booster dose as of October 10th, and only 37.7 percent of over 80s – the group most vulnerable to severe forms of Covid-19 – had received their new booster. 

France is currently seeing a continued rise in cases amid the eighth wave of Covid-19, and the number of new positive cases rose by 13 percent in one week, as of October 11th.

Santé publique France referenced this during its weekly bulletin, saying that “the circulation of Covid-19 – and hospital admissions – continue to increase throughout metropolitan France.”

“Given the current situation and the diminished adoption of preventive measures, vaccination must be reinforced, in particular by a booster with a bivalent vaccine,” the agency wrote.

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