How vaccine passports work in France

Having arrived in France over two weeks ago, I was armed with numerous documents and apps ready to enter the French Covid Secure regime. Passport control took approximately a minute longer than normal where they checked my two-vaccine status and stamped my passport to commence my post Brexit 90-day limit in the EU.

With that done, I entered France and all it has to offer as long as you have a Vaccine Passport. On the 9th August France introduced their vaccination passport, the “Pass Sanitaire” for all hospitality venues and group gatherings. So, if you want to enter bar, restaurant, café or community event you need to ensure you have had two Covid vaccinations. Without it you don’t access these facilities. So how is it working?

You have the same vaccination QR codes which you can show from the UK’s NHS app or you can scan your QR codes to the French version, ‘TousAntiCovid’. If you don’t have a smart phone, you need a print out of these. If you want to be belt and braces, the UK government will supply these to you in the language of the country you are visiting.

Overall it seems business as usual apart from when entering a venue, you go through a 15 second scan of your vaccination status. Every site has the ‘Pass Obligatoire’ signage outside and each server has an app on their phones which is used to scan your pass, either on your phone or your paper confirmation. And everywhere is complying. To not do so can result in €45k fine so its not an easy opt out. There are posters round and about calling for ‘Zone Libre’ campaigning against the passport and its exclusion of people without vaccines but that seems about it.

I asked a server in one restaurant in a popular tourist destination in St Antonin Noble Val if they had seen a reduction in customers because of the Pass Sanitaire. The restaurant was as busy as any other summer lunchtime in August but 99% of the customers were French compared to the usual equal mixture of French, English and Dutch. She did say there were slightly less customers but probably because of travel restrictions rather the requirement of a vaccine passport. Another owner of a local bar said they were not having any problem with people providing their pass and it was becoming the norm. They also hadn’t seen a reduction in customers numbers, the reverse had happened with more coming out.

So, what about those that haven’t had two vaccines or don’t have a Pass Sanitaire with them. They simply can’t frequent these venues. I witnessed with my own eyes a family who arrived at a local bar to meet friends who either didn’t have a pass or had forgotten them. They were locals and were kindly told they couldn’t have access. There was an obvious conversation about allowing them in but they weren’t successful. Another French couple I know have only had one vaccine and hadn’t seen the urgency of getting their second. They are now keen to get their second to be able to resume some level of normality and get out to eat, drink and mix at community events – a big pull throughout France.

The French are renowned for their anti-establishment but it appears that there is more a need to accept the ‘Pass Sanitaire’ as a way out of the restrictions they have lived with over the last 18 months. Any objection appears to lack enthusiasm and is definitely half hearted and the hospitality operators are just getting on with it. If it’s keeping them open, maybe that’s the argument for it or whether you like it or not the fact is that everyone in a venue knows they are surrounded by people doubly vaccinated. Doubtless the UK will have their own opinion with table service not the norm pre Covid and pubs having more than one entrance but with nightclubs having to introduce a vaccine passport in September, we will watch closely how it evolves.


Elaine Beckett, Darls Communications, August 2021

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