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READER QUESTIONS

Reader question: How can people who cannot be vaccinated use France’s vaccine pass?

With a vaccine pass required for a range of everyday activities in France including visiting bars, cinemas or going on long-distance train trips, what is the situation for those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons?

A doctor fills a syring with an anti-Covid vaccine.
A doctor fills a syring with an anti-Covid vaccine. In France, some people can obtain a medical exemption to vaccination and continue using the health pass. (Photo: Fred Tanneau/AFP)

Question: I have a serious medical problem that means I cannot be vaccinated, does that mean I have to accept having a severely restricted lifestyle in France for the foreseeable future?

The French government has been clear since it introduced the health passport that one of the goals is to push people into getting the vaccine, by making life more complicated for the unvaccinated.

This will become stricter when France’s health pass becomes a vaccine pass, with no option for the unvaccinated to get tested instead.

The general principle is that activities like working (with the exception of certain professions), commuting or visiting shops do not need a health or vaccine pass, but for anything fun like getting dinner and drinks with friends, going to the theatre or cinema or getting a train to another part of France, the pass is required. 

But what about those who might want to be vaccinated but cannot for medical reasons?

The Decree that enshrined the health passport into law back in the summer does contain provision for those who cannot be vaccinated.

It is possible to obtain a certificate from your doctor declaring your status as unvaccinated for medical reasons – but only if you fit one of the conditions outlined in the decree.

Those who fit these criteria can obtain an attestation de contre-indication from their doctor.

The decree introducing the vaccine pass adds some detail to this.

Individual doctors can issue an attestation de contre-indication if the patient fits one of the listed criteria below. The patient then sends the attestation to Assurance Maladie, who check the conditions and then issue a QR code that can be scanned into the Tous Anti Covid app and uses as a vaccine pass in order the access bars, cafés etc. 

The conditions outlined by the decree to qualify for this are;

  • A documented history of allergy to one of the components of the vaccines
  • Anaphylaxis of at least grade 2 after the first dose injection
  • A documented history of capillary leakage problems
  • History of pediatric multi-systemic inflammatory syndrome after suffering from Covid
  • A recommendation following a multi-disciplinary medical consultation not to administer a second dose following a severe reaction to the first dose eg myocarditis, Guillan-Barré syndrome

There are also some conditions that have a temporary medical contra-indication

  • Treatment with anti-SARS-CoV-2 monoclonal antibodies
  • Myocarditis or pericarditis that occurred prior to vaccination and is still evolving

For people with severely compromised immune systems, such as cancer patients, the general advice is to get vaccinated, and many have been given an extra dose of the vaccine – in addition to the booster – to ensure adequate protection.

Pregnant women are advised to get the vaccination since there is increasing evidence that pregnant women are more likely to develop the most severe forms of the virus – pregnant cabinet minister Olivia Gregoire was  vaccinated live on TV by her colleague Olivier Véran in order to highlight the need for mothers-to-be to get vaccinated.

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical advice – if you are in any doubt about whether you should get vaccinated, or have concerns about side effects, you should of course consult your doctor.

Member comments

  1. Hi — I’m in the US, traveling to Paris in early September. On Aug. 10, I emailed the signed form, passport, CDC vaccination certification, etc. to the email address provided in your article and by my hotel in Paris in order to get uploaded into the health pass system. I immediately received a computer generated response saying my email and attachments had been received, but nothing since. Anyone with anything to share on them actually getting back with the health pass QR code and all that? Thanks. Jeff

    1. I don’t believe they’re processing health pass QR codes via email anymore. Your best bet is to visit a pharmacy upon arrival, and have them convert your CDC-issued vaccine card into a QR code, which you can then upload into the TousAntiCovid app. The entire process took less than five minutes for us at our local pharmacy in Nice, FR.

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READER QUESTIONS

Reader Question: Is there a Swedish equivalent of writing to your senator or MP?

A reader got in touch to ask whether there is a Swedish equivalent of writing to your senator or MP to protest, voice a political opinion, or raise a local issue. Here's how it works in Sweden.

Reader Question: Is there a Swedish equivalent of writing to your senator or MP?

People in Sweden do send letters to members of the Riksdag, Sweden’s parliament, but it doesn’t work in quite the same way as it does in the UK or the US.

Human rights organisations, pressure groups, and concerned individuals will frequently send individual letters or mount letter-writing campaigns to try to influence MPs on issues that concern them.

Sweden is a transparent society, so it is easy to obtain the contact details of MPs in the parliament. You can find emails for all 349 MPs here, or if you prefer to do it the old-fashioned way, you can simply pop your letter in an envelope and send it, with the MPs name at the top, to this address:

Sveriges riksdag,

100 12 Stockholm. 

For the human rights group Amnesty, for instance, writing letters to politicians is one of the main strategies. 

The big difference between writing to your MP in Sweden, and writing to an MP, Congressman, or Senator in the UK or the US, of course, is that MPs in Sweden do not represent a constituency in the same way. 

The UK has 650 constituencies, each with its own MP. Sweden, on the other hand, has 29, with the smallest, Gotland, having two MPs, and the largest, Stockholm, having 43. You can see a map of Sweden’s constituencies here

When citizens vote in general elections, they vote for a political party first, and only then vote for which of the party’s candidates they would most like to represent them, in so-called “personal preference voting”. 

The election authority then distributes the seats in each constituency to each party based on what share of the vote they got in that constituency. A further 39 adjustment seats, which are not tied to a constituency, are then distributed to make sure the number of MPs each party has in parliament reflects their share of the vote at a national level. 

READ ALSO: What are The Local’s reader questions? 

For the purposes of letter-writing, the important difference is that you do not have an MP in Sweden, but several, normally representing rival political parties. 

According to David Karlsson, a professor at Gothenburg University, who has written a paper on letters sent to MPs, most Swedes will have no idea who the MPs are who represent their constituency. 

“It’s very obvious and well-known in Britain who the MP is,” he points out. “Knowledge of who the local MP is in Sweden is very very low, very few people could name the MP elected from their constituency.” 

Another big difference is that MPs in Sweden tend to focus their attention more at the national level, and not to see their primary role as representing the interests of their local constituencies. They don’t hold “surgeries” in their local constituencies in the same way that MPs do in the UK, and are less likely to get involved in helping individual citizens solve local problems.  

Partly this is because what they need to do to get reelected is to retain the support of their local political party organisation, rather than the support of voters. Partly, its because MPs have very little power to influence their local municipalities and regions. 

“There is a big difference in how much [MPs in Sweden] can do. If people want help in their private, local cases, there is very little executive power in being an MP,” Karlsson says.  

As a result, people in Sweden are more likely to write letters to local municipal councillors or regional representatives, rather than to their MPs if they want help with personal problems and local issues. 

When Amnesty writes letters to MPs, they usually decide which MP to write to based on whether they are actively engaged in the issue at hand, or whether they sit on a certain committee, rather than on which constituency they represent. 

When Amnesty is campaigning on a local issue, however, they do sometimes still write letters to MPs based on the constituency where the issue is taking place. 

For instance, when a Romanian citizen living in Gävleborg was hit with heavy medical bills from the regional health authority because she had a baby in a local hospital without the required paperwork, Amnesty sent letters to MPs representing the constituency. 

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