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READER QUESTIONS

Reader question: Can I get a Covid vaccine as a tourist in France?

As France introduces a strict vaccine pass system for entry to many everyday venues such as cafés and bars, several readers have asked us if they can be vaccinated or get a booster while in France on holiday.

Patient receiving the Covid vaccine in France
Patient receiving the Covid vaccine in France. Photo: Jeff Pachoud/AFP

Question: I’m from the US and have a trip to Paris booked in March. Here it’s not possible to get a booster just four months after a second dose, so as I understand it I won’t be able to use the French vaccine pass. Can’t I just get my booster while I’m on holiday in France?

This is quite an ironic question, since if we scroll back to January 2021 France was widely derided as having one of the western world’s slowest vaccine rollouts and people were asking us whether they could leave France to get vaccinated elsewhere.

What a difference a year makes. In the interval France has dramatically stepped up its vaccine rollout and now has a very efficient system and a 93 percent vaccination rate among over 12s.

It also has a strict vaccine pass system that requires people to be fully vaccinated in order to enter a wide range of venues including bars, cafés and tourist sites. Full details on how that works HERE.

And in order to use the vaccine pass you need to be ‘fully vaccinated ‘ – which in France also means having had a booster for most adults.

So if your home country is not offering a vaccine that meets the French specifications (either because it is using non-EMA approved vaccines like Sputnik or because its booster shot programme doesn’t move as fast as the French one) can you get your shots while here?

Technically, no.

France, in common with most countries, reserves its vaccines for residents. You don’t have to be a French citizen but you do have to be a resident of France.

So how strictly is this enforced?

In most cases, you will be asked to show your carte vitale when going for a vaccine appointment. This is the French health insurance card with a social security number that residents have in order to get publicly-funded healthcare. Obviously, tourists or visitors will not have this.

There is, however, a decree passed at the beginning of 2021 that states that residents of France who do not have a carte vitale should be vaccinated. This was originally intended for people in vulnerable situations such as the homeless or undocumented migrants, but it can also be used for people who have recently moved and don’t have the card yet (registering for the card can take more than six months). In this case you would usually be asked for proof of residency such as utility bills.

Feedback from readers of The Local suggest that some centres are more vigilant than others about checking residency paperwork, but we would suggest that tourists do not rely on this in order to get an extra dose while in France.

Member comments

  1. I’m under the impression that only fully vaccinated and passengers with a negative Covid test are allowed to board a plane to France.

  2. I could name 10 Americans not resident in France who received their boosters in France… myself and husband included. No questions asked. No proof of residency… only a CDC card as proof of the first 2 jabs. In short, the French are bending over backwards to give anyone and everyone a vaccine if they want it.

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Covid vaccines: Novavax roll-out begins in France

Thousands of Novavax Covid vaccines began arriving in France this week and will be available from March. Here's what you need to know about the shots.

Covid vaccines: Novavax roll-out begins in France

France has ordered 3.2 million Covid vaccine doses from the American pharmaceutical company Novavax for the first quarter of 2022 – and may order a further 3.2 million for the second. 

The first shipments, amounting to 1.14 million doses began arriving in the country this week. Of this first delivery, some 600,000 doses will be immediately sent to France’s overseas territories, where vaccination rates are generally lower. 

The Health Ministry told Ouest France that vaccination with these vaccines will begin in the first week of March. 

What makes this vaccine different?

The Novavax vaccine is what is known as a ‘protein sub-unit’ vaccine.

This means it works differently to viral vector vaccines made by AstraZeneca and Jansses or mRNA vaccines made by Pfzier and Moderna.

Protein sub-unit vaccines works by injecting a piece of the virus – in this case, the spike protein – into the patient.

The patient’s immune system then learns to recognise spike proteins which allows better protection against Covid in the future. 

In a statement given to Le Figaro, the health ministry said the fact that this vaccine works differently to the others may be enough to convince vaccine sceptics to get their shots. 

“Its particular technology could mean that it is orientated towards reticent people or those who cannot be vaccinated via an mRNA vaccine,” it said.   

The European Medicines Agency has recommended its use for anyone over the age of 18, but not for children. 

How will it be administered? 

The vaccine has only been authorised in France for the initial two vaccinations – not the booster shot for people already vaccinated with another vaccine. French authorities say this is because of a lack of research into the use of Novavax as a booster. 

It will only be available to people over the age of 18 and administered through vaccine centres, pharmacies and doctors from March.

The exact start date is still to be confirmed.

How effective is it? 

Clinical trials have shown the Novavax vaccine, technically known as Nuvaxovid, to be 90 percent effective in preventing symptomatic Covid and 100 percent effective in preventing serious illness. 

The Canadian health ministry also released preliminary data that suggests it is effective in producing Omicron-neutralising antibodies. 

Novavax declared at the start of the month that the vaccine was 80 percent effective in treating people aged between 12-17. 

The Haute autorité de santé, an advisory body to the French government on health policy, has said that mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) should still be given as a priority, judging them to be more effective. 

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