French MPs approve creation of a vaccine pass

After several delays, French MPs have approved a bill to turn the country's health pass into a vaccine pass - barring the unvaccinated from a wide range of venues including cafés, bars and gyms.

French MPs approve creation of a vaccine pass
MPs debated the bill into the early hours of Thursday. Photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP

After long hours of debate, MPs in the Assemblée nationale voted in the early hours of Thursday to approve the bill by 214 votes against 93, and 27 abstentions.

The bill will now move to the Senate, although within the French parliamentary system, the Assemblée nationale has the final say in the event that the two houses cannot agree.

The debate on the controversial bill has been halted twice – once on Monday when MPs protested they did not have enough time and again on Wednesday in reaction to Emmanuel Macron’s comment that he wanted to “piss off” the unvaccinated.

This means that the government’s desired start date for the pass on January 15th is likely to be slightly delayed.

Since the summer France has used the pass sanitaire (health pass) which requires visitors aged 12 and over to present proof of either vaccination, recent recovery from Covid or a recent negative test in order to access a wide range of venues including bars, cafés, restaurants, gyms, leisure centres, cinemas, theatres, museums, tourist sites and long distance train travel.

The system for using a negative test has been tightened and now tests are valid for just 24 hours and have to be paid for at €22 a time.

However once the health pass becomes a vaccine pass, tests would not be accepted and only proof of being fully vaccinated – which now includes having a booster shot for those eligible – could be used.

READ ALSO What changes when France’s health pass becomes a vaccine pass?

Health minister Olivier Véran said that the law “responds to the epidemic recovery in an effective, graduated manner. It makes the choice of science and responsibility”.

France has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, with 90 percent of the eligible population vaccinated. However there are still 5 million over 12s who have not received the vaccine, and the government intends the vaccine pass to put pressure on them by denying them access to fun, social and leisure activities.

Vaccination in France is currently compulsory only for healthworkers, but the vaccine pass will in effect force people who work in health pass venues such as cafés and gyms to get vaccinated, or be unable to work.

Member comments

  1. Proof of vaccination is not proof you don’t have the virus. Only a test proves whether or not you have the virus. So, removing the test as qualification for a health pass is clearly not a health measure. Only the vaccinated will qualify for the pass and , consequently, all that will say about you is that you may or may not have the virus. If a daily test had been made compulsory, at least there would have been a health rationale to the measure.

    1. Those assertions presuppose the tests are accurate. They are, up to a point, but can still give incorrect results (both false negatives (test says you are not infected when yu actually are infected, and false positives (other way around)). Furthermore, different tests have differing accuracies, the “gold standard” PCR tests are best (well over 90% accuracy), other less so. Even PCR tests, however, can miss someone who has just become infected prior to testing, and *NO* test can detect someone who has become infected after the test. Consequently, all that any test “will say about you is that you may or may not have the virus.”

      If you are vaccinated, you are less likely — significantly less likely — to be infected. So-called “breakthrough” infections happen, and sadly, seem to happen somewhat more often with the Omicron variant than previous VoCs (Variants of Concern), but vaccination is still trivially, easily, the best and cheapest anti-virus measure. Vaccination also reduces the severity of the disease should you happen to be a breakthrough case, and vastly decreases the possibility of hospitalisation, of being in ICU, and of death… suggesting vaccination also reduces the possibility of “long Covid”.

      Breakthrough cases notwithstanding, vaccination also strongly reduces the possibility of passing on the virus to others — be it your family, friends, colleagues, or whoever (and much much more so if they are also vaccinated!).

      Boosters improve the protection of the current generation of vaccines. So please get fully-vaccinated, with a booster, and stop pretending tests are an adequate substitute. (Obviously, if you cannot be vaccinated due to ineligibility or a genuine medical condition — “sincerely held beliefs” and other anti-social ploys do NOT count, fascist psychopaths — this request does not apply to you.)

      1. False positives are virtually unheard of now on lateral flow testing and consequently, in the UK at least, PCR testing is no longer required as a follow up to a lateral flow positive result. The obsession with vaccines has now resulted in vaccinated healthcare staff in France , as of last Sunday, being allowed to continue working even if infected with the virus whilst unvaccinated , uninfected staff remain suspended. The real trouble is Governments becoming wedded to a narrative which necessarily may have to change as both the virus and knowledge of the virus changes. I would also point out that millions of French citizens are and were left effectively and unknowingly unvaccinated in the face of the new variant because of the delay to the booster programme and initially setting it at 5 months after the 2nd jab, then 4 months and now 3 months.

        1. The problem with tests is that they show the infection status from 2-4 days ago, and the issue is false NEGATIVES, not false positives.

          The only reason UK government abandoned PCR testing is because of the lack of PCR test capacity in the country – but of course, you being you, you are just parroting the party line.

          1. The actual figure is 3 in a million false negatives or positives. As for the UK, it has been ahead of the game on all aspects of covid control from day 1. Remember the gap between 1st and 2nd jabs and Beaune claiming it shouldn’t have been shortened – only to follow suit – or the booster campaign in France , first 5 months after the 2nd jab, then 4 months and now 3 months to match Britain ( eventually ). You seem to have very little awareness and too many trite comments.

  2. Alan Stuart is correct. I now have three family members and five friends who are fully vaccinated and are suffering from Covid. For two of them, this is the second bout with the virus…after having received two jabs. Vaccines may help, but there are not the blanket solution that the French government promotes.
    I think the French have handled the pandemic well overall, but this was a misstep.

    1. The vaccine was NEVER intended to stop Covid 100%. It is intended to reduce the severity of symptoms and take the pressure off of out beleaguered health care system.

      1. Since that’s not working, a health pass based solely on a negative covid test would be far more effective that a health pass based on having taken a vaccine that doesn’t indicate whether you’re infected or not and doesn’t stop transmission. We’re talking here about the best criteria for a health pass not whether or not to get vaccinated. They’re two different things.

      2. Its nowhere close to 100% and Omicron is NOT overwhelming the health care system anyway, because its mild by comparison with previous variants. I know many people both here and in the UK who have had Omicron recently and not one had been hospitalised. Most patients currently hospitalised have Delta.

        Does the same apply to other vaccines in your logic, when did you last here of a case of smallpox, polio or whooping cough for example?

        WE will not get over this pandemic until we get some immunity into the population and while vaccines may help in that regard, they are NOT the panacea the many people seem to think they are.

        I am fully vaccinated, because I want to be, but I respect the right of anyone who doesn’t and demonising them like Macron and some people on here is quite frankly pathetic and pandering to the narrative we are being force fed by politicians and the mass media.

  3. I think it is brilliant having adults running the country instead of childish, duplicitous, selfish government aka the uk government.

    I am so pleased to be living in France.

    Bravo monsieur Macron chapeau.

    1. Really ?Personally, Governments that rely on coercion rather than persuasion worry me rather a lot. A slippery slope down which Continental Europe has slid before.

      1. Well you are entitled to your opinion, as am I, I prefer to be governed by the French, which is why I left the dopey uk, however since I left the uk, it has only become worse, so I am very glad that I left when I did.

        If I had any regrets, it would be that I should have left earlier than I did.

        1. You should never give any Government a blank cheque like that. Surely you’ve learnt by now they will always let you down. Try and keep your wits about you.

  4. As from last Sunday, the Ministry of Health has given written instruction that Covid infected healthcare workers can carry on working in hospitals. The obsession with vaccines has now resulted in the crazy situation where unvaccinated, uninfected nurses are suspended whilst vaccinated , INFECTED nurses carry on working. The rest of the world seems aghast at this policy but not apparently the French.

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‘Police should have stopped Koran-burning demos after the first day’

Swedish police underestimated the level of violence that awaited them and should have called a halt to Danish-Swedish extremist Rasmus Paludan’s demos as soon as it became clear the riots were spiralling out of control, argues journalist Bilan Osman. 

‘Police should have stopped Koran-burning demos after the first day’

Speaking to The Local for the Sweden in Focus podcast, out this Saturday, Osman said she understood why the police had allowed the demonstrations to go ahead in the first place but that the safety of civilians and police officers should have taken precedence when the counter-demonstrations turned violent. 

“Just to be clear, I don’t think it’s an easy question. I think everyone, regardless of views or beliefs, should have the right to demonstrate,” said Osman, who writes for the left-wing Dagens ETC newspaper and previously lectured for the anti-racist Expo Foundation.

“I understand people who say that violence [from counter-demonstrators] shouldn’t be a reason to stop people from demonstrating. I truly believe that. But at the same time: was it worth it this time when it’s about people’s lives and safety?” 

Police revealed on Friday that at least 104 officers were injured in counter-demonstrations that they say were hijacked by criminal gangs intent on targeting the police. 

Forty people were arrested and police are continuing to investigate the violent riots for which they admitted they were unprepared. 

“I think the police honestly misjudged the situation. I understand why Paludan was allowed to demonstrate the first day. It’s not the first time he has burned the Koran in Sweden. When he burned the Koran in Rinkeby last year nothing happened. But this time it was chaos.” 

Osman noted that Rasmus Paludan did not even show up for a planned demonstration in her home city of Linköping – but the police were targeted anyway. 

“I know people who were terrified of going home. I know people who had rocks thrown in their direction, not to mention the people who worked that day, policemen and women who feared for their lives. So for the safety of civilians and the police the manifestations should have been stopped at that point. Instead it went on, not only for a second day but also a third day and a fourth day.” 

On the question of whether it was acceptable to burn Islam’s holy book, Osman said it depended on the context. 

“If you burn the Koran mainly to criticise religion, or even Islam, of course it should be accepted in a democracy. The state should not only allow these things, but also protect people that do so. 

“I do believe that. Even as a Muslim. That’s an important part of the freedom of speech. 

A previous recipient of an award from the Swedish Committee Against Antisemitism for her efforts to combat prejudice in society, Osman drew parallels with virulent anti-Semitism and said it was “terrifying” that Paludan was being treated by many as a free speech campaigner rather than a far-right extremist.  

“If you are a right-wing extremist that wants to ethnically cleanse, that wants to cleanse Muslims from Sweden, and therefore burn the Koran, it’s actually dumb to think that this is a question about freedom of speech. When Nazis burn everything Jewish it’s not a critique against Judaism, it’s anti-Semitism.” 

Anti-Muslim sentiment in Sweden tended to come in waves, Osman said, pointing to 9/11 and Anders Behring Brevik’s attacks in Norway as previous occasions when Islamophobia was rampant. Now the Easter riots had unleashed a new wave of hatred against Muslims that she described as “alarming” and the worst yet. 

“I do believe that we will find a way to coexist in our democracy. But we have to put in a lot work. And Muslims can’t do that work alone. We need allies in this.” 

Listen to more from Bilan Osman on the April 23rd episode of Sweden in Focus: Why Sweden experienced its worst riots in decades.