‘I’d like to feel free’: Unvaccinated French people on life without a health pass (2023)

President Emmanuel Macron shocked France this week by vowing to “piss off” the unvaccinated, whose comings and goings are severely curtailed by the need to show a “health pass” to access various public venues and transport. As France debates introducing an even stricter “vaccine pass” later this month, FRANCE 24 spoke to people who are holding out against the Covid jab about the adjustments they have made.


"The unvaccinated, I really want to piss them off. And sowe're going to continue doing sountil the end. That's the strategy,"Macrontold Le Parisien newspaper in aninterviewpublished late Tuesday.

The French expression Macron actually used –"emmerder", literally, to put in the "merde" (shit)– can also mean to bother or cause trouble for someone(embêter),according to French dictionary Larousse.

His commentscame as the government debateslegislationthat would make it mandatory for people to show proof of being vaccinated –and not just a negative Covid test or proof of having recovered from coronavirus – to access most public venues and transport.

The French president’s blunt statement prompted a round of breathless media coverage in France and beyond. Presidential challengers on bothleft andright emerged to condemn his choice of phrase. But none were more troubled than the unvaccinated themselves, who heard in his words a warning that their lives were about to become even more difficult.

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Everyone FRANCE 24 spoketo – all of whom only agreed to speak using a pseudonym – saidtheir lives hadbecome more difficult since Macron introduced the health pass last summer.Most are now also contemplating getting vaccinated to make things easier, lending some credence to the idea that Covid restrictions might win over at least some of the vaccine hesitant.

“Emilie”,38, self-employed:‘I’m in good health, and I tell myself that my body can take on Covid’

“I never had a health pass except a couple of times. Once I had to take a free PCR test because I was in contact with a Covid case. The negative result gave me a pass for 72 hours so I took the opportunity to go to a bar. Before that, I used my mum’s pass a few times to go out for a coffee – but I stopped that when a waiter noticed that the date of birth on there wasn’t right. I got scared; a €750 fine for using a fake pass is quite a deterrent.

But in any case, Ihadstopped going out much since the first lockdown for financial reasons. I can’t afford to go to a restaurant or the cinema anymore. My budget for outings is €5 a month. So I think for someone who can afford to go out, they have much more of an incentive to get a jab.

I can do without those small pleasures. Instead I ride my bike, I go walking in the forest, I go to my friends’ houses and I have them over at mine. I got an antigen test from the pharmacy last September when you could stillget reimbursed by social security even if you weren’t vaccinated. I went to see a movie at the cinema. Then I stopped taking what I thought of as ‘comfort tests’.

Sometimes things become a bit tense betweenmy boyfriend and me.He wantsus to be able to go to the cinemaor out for a drink whenever we want.

A lot of people thought this pandemic would just be temporary – and I’m one of them. I’m young, I’m in good health,and I tell myself that my body can take on Covid. I follow public health measures even more strictly than people who’ve been vaccinated. But if the whole thing drags on – if in three years’ time I still have to get a health pass to sit at a café – Imightchange my mind.”

‘I’d like to feel free’: Unvaccinated French people on life without a health pass (1)

“Julien”,computer programmer:‘I’m not against the vaccine, per se, if we make one that’s been tested’

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“I didn’t get the vaccine. I’ve never had Covid – and I don’t trytocheat the system. Ijustdecided to follow the rules and accept the consequences. I’m not the type to go to the cinema or to a restaurant. I’d rather cook at home instead.

Since Omicron arrived, I’ve been even less tempted to go to crowded places. I don’t have more than four friends over at any one time; I’m very cautious.

Sport is the only thing I miss. I used to swim and climb – but I haven’t been able to go back to those clubs since the pandemic started. Over time I’ve had to learn to exercise differently, to do it on my own. Since I can’t exercise indoors, I do itoutside. And I like it.

During the Christmas season, I couldn’t go and see my mum and dad because I can only go via long-distance train – and that requires a health pass. I would have had to travel on Christmas Day, when pharmacies areclosed,so it wouldn’t have been possible to get a negative test to get atemporary pass.

One day this will all be over. I’m not against thevaccine, per se,if we make one that’s been tested over the long term and under safe conditions. I hope the government isn’t going to impose the vaccine pass on foreign travel, becauseso far a negative antigen test is enough so I didn’tneed the health pass to leave the country.

It would seem almost like a hostage situationif I couldn’t leave the country anymore, because I really love travelling. So if the restrictions become too much, I’d see that as an opportunity to move to another country.”

“Cathy”,34, formernurse: ‘I felt judged by my then colleagues’

“I couldn’tuse a fake health pass on ethical grounds. And I don’t see the point of it. I have bigger priorities than going to a restaurant or to the cinema. I’ve been looking for a job and I’m starting to have trouble repaying a loan. I quit my job as a hospital nurse six months ago for a sales job that I didn’t like.

I only got a health pass once – last summer, when I had a test so I could take my children to Disneyland Paris. Otherwise I tend to have my friends come to my house to see me. Most of the time people are perfectly happy with that – and they themselves don’t take many risks.

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But I felt judged by my then colleagues a few months ago. It was a work night out – all my colleagues were in a bar and I had to wait for them outside. They took a photo of me through the window and posted it on social media with the word “punished”. It was a joke. I didn’t take it the wrong way. But I still found it childish and low.

At Christmas my in-laws asked me not to come because I’m not vaccinated. My husband and kids went without me. But my in-laws are vaccinated, and the way I see it, the people who need to be the most careful are the unvaccinated. I respecthygiene measureseven more scrupulously than they do. The company I worked for organised an event with more than 60 people in early December. I was one ofa very few people who werewearing a mask; I was shocked.

I was very scared when the government raised the idea of making the health pass compulsory for workers. I had nightmares about it; I thought I’d never find a job. It’s already complicated because I can’t go back to work as a nurse as it takes at leastfour monthsto get fully vaccinated.” [Editor’s note: In fact, unvaccinated people in France can get two doses of a Covid jab28 days apart.]

“But I promised myself that I wouldn’t get vaccinated and I want to stick to that.”

“Sonia”,27, lawyer:‘I’d prefer to wait and see what happens with the vaccine’

“I had Covid two months ago. I’m almost glad I had it because I wasn’t seriously ill and I got immunity. The immunity gave me a health pass,which I’ve had ever since.

Before, I used my sister’s. She lives in a different city. No one has ever checked my identity, neither in France nor in Italy, where I’ve been several times. Often, people don’t even ask me for the pass.

I didn’t want to get the vaccine because I thought this pandemic would eventually pass, because I don’t need it to work, and because I’d prefer to wait and see what happens withthe vaccine.But if the same situation continues and the pass remains in effect, I’ll probably get vaccinated when my health pass expires.”

“Soraya”,63, childminder: ‘A lot of my friends live parallel lives’

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“Covid has never scared me and I avoid wearing a mask as much as possible. I have to wear one in shops. But it’s annoying when I babysit. I don’t impose mask-wearing on parents who come to pick up their children.

I tried to do without the health pass during the first fewmonths;I was proud of myself. I didn’t go to restaurants or tothe cinema –but I started to miss them pretty quickly. I borrowed a friend’s pass; the only problem was that she was born in 1996. I was flatteredthatno one noticed – I went to the local library and to the cinema.

One day the manager of a restaurant said there was a mistakein my pass. Well he lost a customer, because I’ll never setfoot in there again. Since then another friendhas lent me her pass for when I want to go out.

A lot of my friends live parallel lives because of the health pass. I’d like to feel free in my own country. I think that – instead of forcing the vaccine on us – the government should increasehospital capacityand treat health workers better.

I’m reluctantly goingto get the vaccine on Saturday because I have to go and visit family in Algeria. I haven’t seen them for a very longtime, and because of the border closures I wasn’t able to go to my sister’s funeral. She died in 2020.It’s a very important trip for me and so I have no choice but to get vaccinated. I’m afraid that people will have to be vaccinated by the time I return to France,and I can’t afford to be stranded in Algeria.”

This article was translated from the original in French.

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Does France still require a health pass? ›

As of March 14, 2022, the “vaccine pass” has been suspended in areas where it was required previously. Showing a valid health pass is still mandatory in order to enter health care facilities such as hospitals, retirement homes and places of care for disabled people.

What is French health pass? ›

When visiting France, French people living abroad and their dependants vaccinated with a vaccine recognized by the European Medicines Agency, can, if they so wish, apply for a health pass to facilitate their stay in France.

How do I get a French health pass? ›

“Foreign tourists can submit their application. To request a QR code, simply e-mail us with proof of vaccination, an identity document, the downloadable application form and your airline ticket,” the minister added.

Do foreigners need to be vaccinated to enter France? ›

What are the rules relating to the vaccine pass? Since 14 March 2022, the “vaccine pass” has been lifted in France in all areas where it was previously required (cultural and leisure venues, commercial catering, professional trade shows, etc.). Similarly, the COVID certificate is no longer required as of 1 August 2022.

Do migrants get free healthcare in France? ›

Undocumented migrants: • Undocumented migrants are entitled to “State Medical Aid” (Aide Médicale d'Etat, AME) but it is restricted to those who arrived in France more than 3 months ago and with a very low income.

Do UK citizens get free healthcare in France? ›

You must have health insurance cover to live in France. State healthcare in France is not free. Healthcare costs are covered by both the state and through patient contributions. These are known as co-payments.

Do French pensioners get free healthcare? ›

The French healthcare system is known as 'L'Assurance Maladie', and it's available to all French residents. However, the system isn't free – it's paid for by a combination of state funds and patient contributions (which may, in turn, be covered by a mutuelle or top-up insurance – more on that later).

How do I get a French health Pass UK? ›

If you receive your COVID-19 vaccination in France, you can obtain a French 'pass sanitaire (which is a version of the EU Digital Covid Certificate) in order to travel internationally. To do so, you should scan the QR code on your paper vaccine certification via the French app TousAntiCovid.

Who is eligible for free healthcare in France? ›

Public healthcare in France is accessible by all residents through French health insurance contributions. As of 2016, a new healthcare system for foreigners, known as Protection Universelle Maladie (PUMA), allows access to state healthcare after three months of residence.

How much do French citizens pay for healthcare? ›

To fund universal health care in France, workers are required to pay about 21 percent of their income into the national health care system. Employers pick up a little more than half of that. (French employers say these high taxes constrain their ability to hire more people.)

Do you have to pay for French healthcare? ›

Most of the healthcare services in France are free. Public health insurance covers up to 70% of medical costs. But, the way the system is set up, first, you must pay for the services and then receive your reimbursement.

How do I get a vaccination pass for France? ›

for foreign students: directly online ; for foreign nationals who are not students: in pharmacies in France. They should present their passport and the paper version of the original vaccination certificate in a pharmacy offering the service (a list is available on the Ministry for Solidarity and Health website).

Is vaccination free in France? ›

In France, vaccination is free. You can make an appointment on the "Doctolib" website to book your vaccination slots in any vaccination center.

How much money do Refugees get in France? ›

1/ How much is the allowance

– If you accept the offer and the OFII grants you a house, you will receive 6,80 €/day. – If you have a husband, a wife or children with you in France, you will receive 3,40€ more /day/person + 7.40€ per day for your wife or jusband if you are not hosted.

Why do migrants not want to stay in France? ›

In the few studies that exist, family ties have been identified as the main reason migrants wish to travel from France to the UK. In a survey of 402 people at the former Calais "Jungle" camp, researchers from International Health found only 12% wanted to remain in France, while 82% planned to go to England.

Are the French happy with their healthcare? ›

French citizens' satisfaction

This fairly high satisfaction rate confirms the conclusions of the World Health Organization's 2000 report, which ranked France first among 191 countries on quality of health care.

Do French people get benefits? ›

Employees and social security in France

Most employees receive coverage for sickness, maternity, paternity, and family benefits under the compulsory general scheme. Financing for this comes mainly from contributions and tax deductions from earnings.

Is UK healthcare better than France? ›

Number of doctors – In regard to the amount of practising medical professionals, France performs better than both the United Kingdom and United States, with a higher number of medical doctors and nurses per 1,000 inhabitants. France's 6.5 physicians per 1,000 people is also higher than the EU average of 4.9.

Who pays for elderly care in France? ›

Services are available to all residents over the age of 60 who require them, but whether or not it's covered by the state depends upon your income. Low-income pensioners may receive full coverage via the Allocation Personnalisée d'Autonomie (APA); higher-income seniors may need to fund up to 90% themselves.

How much is French Old Age pension? ›

The scheme aims to provide up to a maximum of 50% of the retiree's income during their 25 highest earning years up to the Plafond de la sécurité sociale (€41,136 annually in 2022). The state scheme is financed by a payroll tax known as "social security contributions".

Do pensioners pay social charges in France? ›

Social charges on pension income are only payable if you are subject to the French health care system (you are either paying cotisations sociales or PUMA contributions).

Is France a nice place to live? ›

Not only is the country beautiful and full of things to do, but it's also a great place for children to grow up. France have great value properties and chalet houses. Bordeaux, for example, is ideal for raising a family due to its lower cost of living and culture.

Is it cheaper to live in France than the UK? ›

United Kingdom is 10.3% more expensive than France.

How much does a doctor visit cost in France? ›

The sécurité sociale sets standard fees—currently €25 ($27), for a visit to a general practitioner and from €50 ($55) to see a specialist. Some médecin conventionné doctors observe the standard sécurité sociale rates, but many within the system set their own fees.

What happens if you get sick in France? ›

If you start showing symptoms call your doctor or a doctor, do not go to a doctor's office. If you have difficulties breathing or very heavy symptoms and are in an emergency situation, call the SAMU by dialling 15.

Who has better healthcare US or France? ›

In fact, the World Health Organization concluded that France has the world's number one healthcare system. Interestingly, France has more doctors per capita than the U.S. and more hospital beds.

Do you pay for ambulance in France? ›

In France, a doctor has to confirm that you are really in need of an ambulance service, otherwise you'll have to pay for ambulance transport. By French law, in an emergency any French hospital or SAMU must treat any patient, regardless of their ability to pay.

How much income do I need to retire to France? ›

The minimum monthly earnings requirements has therefore increased from nothing to €1,329 net income per month for a single person and around €2,658 net income per month for a couple. For a British family moving to France with 3 children, they will now have to show a gross annual income of around €60,000.

Are hospitals in France free? ›

Hospital Treatment in France

The French social security system covers treatment in public hospitals and clinics with conventionné status. You'll be reimbursed 80% for treatment the first month and 100% thereafter. All surgical expenses are reimbursed 100%.

Who pays for French healthcare? ›

The French health care system is funded from four sources: Obligatory health contributions levied on earned income, for which it is paid by employers, employees and the self employed. Obligatory contributions levied on unearned income (investment income, pensions, etc) Central government funding.

What country has the best healthcare? ›

Learn more about how countries are assessed in the Best Countries methodology.
  • No. 8: Netherlands. ...
  • No. 7: United Kingdom. ...
  • No. 6: Switzerland. ...
  • No. 5: Canada. ...
  • No. 4: Norway. Quality of Life Rank: 5. ...
  • No. 3: Sweden. Quality of Life Rank: 1. ...
  • No. 2: Germany. Quality of Life Rank: 7. ...
  • No. 1: Denmark. Quality of Life Rank: 2.
27 Sept 2022

Do I need health insurance to travel to France from UK? ›

It's important to take out appropriate travel insurance for your needs. A GHIC or EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance and you should have both before you travel. It does not cover all health-related costs, for example, medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment and non-urgent treatment.

Does France accept NHS Covid pass? ›

France will accept the UK's proof of COVID-19 recovery and vaccination record. Your NHS appointment card from vaccination centres is not designed to be used as proof of vaccination and should not be used to demonstrate your vaccine status.

Are there any Covid requirements to enter France? ›

Justification of travel (the “compelling reason”) is no longer required; Travellers are no longer required to present a sworn statement of non-contamination and an undertaking to undergo an antigen test or screening upon arrival in the country.

Is healthcare in France better than UK? ›

Number of doctors – In regard to the amount of practising medical professionals, France performs better than both the United Kingdom and United States, with a higher number of medical doctors and nurses per 1,000 inhabitants. France's 6.5 physicians per 1,000 people is also higher than the EU average of 4.9.

How do I get a vaccine pass for France? ›

for foreign students: directly online ; for foreign nationals who are not students: in pharmacies in France. They should present their passport and the paper version of the original vaccination certificate in a pharmacy offering the service (a list is available on the Ministry for Solidarity and Health website).

Do I need a visa for France from UK 2022? ›

British citizens do not require a visa if spending up to 90 days over a 180 days period in the Schengen area.

Can I go abroad if I don't have the COVID-19 vaccine? ›

If you have not been fully vaccinated, you should continue to follow the entry requirements of the country you are travelling to, such as proof of a negative COVID-19 test on arrival. You should carefully research the requirements of your destination country before travelling.

Do US citizens need a visa for France? ›

You may enter the Schengen area, including France, for up to 90 days for tourist and business purposes without a visa. Immigration officers may also request you show sufficient funds for your intended stay and a return airline ticket.

What food can I take to France? ›

If you travel to the EU from a non-EU country, you are not allowed to bring any meat or dairy products with you. You can however bring a limited quantity of fruit and vegetables as well as eggs, egg products and honey. Restricted quantities of fish or fish products are also allowed.

How long does Covid last? ›

Most people with COVID-19 get better within a few days to a few weeks after infection, so at least four weeks after infection is the start of when post-COVID conditions could first be identified. Anyone who was infected can experience post-COVID conditions.


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