My experience in Paris on July 29, 2021 trying to obtain the French Pass Sanitaire:
It seems that France’s policies regarding Covid have been changing daily, weekly at best. The constant changes greatly effect both French citizens and non-French citizens alike. Upon arriving in Paris on July 29, I became intimately connected to the frustration and confusion that is ripping through France as its government attempts to get Covid 19 (especially the Delta Variant) under control.
I’m home now in the United States, but while I wrote this post, on my first day in Paris, I was sitting in a cafe a block away from the Eiffel Tower with a much needed vodka in hand. Believe me, after reading of my experience with France, COVID-19 and my vaccination card you will need one as well.
Before leaving for Paris, I made sure I kept abreast of France’s Covid situation and possible vaccine documents the French government might request. At least two weeks before I arrived, I found a couple of articles written by Americans who said they were easily able to obtain both the Covid test (required to return to the USA) and the French national health pass called the Pass Sanitaire (to enter museums, restaurants and shops) by using our US CDC vaccine card information and passport. So, I figured, if they were able to get all that taken care of reasonably effortlessly, things would be the same for me. Wrong! Very wrong!
After dropping by bags off at my hotel, I hightailed it to a nearby pharmacy which according to most publications was the quickest place from which to obtain the Pass Sanitaire. Lucky the pharmacist spoke fluent English and after explaining that I was interested in having my US CDC vaccine information transferred to the Pass Sanitaire digital system, her only response was ok, but you will need to take a Covid test first.
Although I thought requiring a Covid test was a bit strange since I did had proof of being fully vaccinated, I just figured it was just a French thing. And besides, I was going to get the coveted Pass Sanitaire allowing me to eat, shop and tour without any problems so I just said ok without question. And there lay my mistake.
Taking the Covid test would not have been a problem if it weren’t for the heavy handed nature of the guy performing the nasal swipe. It literally took the rest of the day for my left nostril to “calm down.” But again, it didn’t matter - I was now so much closer to walking around with my very own Pass Sanitaire QR code. Or so I thought.
I walked around the beautiful Place des Vosges while I waited the 20 minutes for my test results. When I returned, the pharmacist informed me that I now had an active QR Code - and it was valid for 48 hrs. What!!! Only 48 hrs?!? Remember, this code is what is now required to enter restaurants, museums and shops.
I explain to her that I was going to be in Paris for 6 days. And continued to ask, what was I supposed to do? Get a Covid test (and pay 30 euros) every two days. She responded, “Yes, I’m sorry. I know it’s inconvenient, but France does not recognize the American CDC Vaccination Card and I can’t put your CDC information into the French system to generate a the Pass Sanitaire QR code.”
I tried to protest and reminded her that our original conversation was about obtaining the true Pass Sanitaire, not a temporary Covid test result. After going back and forth a bit, I just walked out with my “good for only 48 hours” negative Covid test result in hand. I was so confused and angry. Welcome to Paris, I thought.
I went to another pharmacist and she just flat out told me, as the previous pharmacist should have, that it was now illegal to place the American CDC Vaccine information into the French digital Pass Sanitaire system.
Ok, I thought, one more try - the Hôtel de Ville, which is equivalent to an American City Hall. One of the articles I read said that getting the Pass Sanitaire at the Hôtel de Ville was a breeze. Well, not anymore! A gentleman working at the medical tent in front of Hôtel de Ville nicely explained that yes, up until two days before they were able to transfer the US CDC information into the French Pass Sanitaire system. But they recently had been told to stop without any explanation. He actually apologized and said the government’s constant policy changing was very frustrating for everyone - the French included.
The attendant was so very nice. I showed him the form I received from the pharmacist and he shook his head and said he had no idea what the form represented - it definitely had nothing to do with the Pass Sanitaire.
The front desk attendant at my hotel was nice enough to assist me in obtaining the Tous AntiCovid app, where I was able to download my “valid for 48 hours” negative Covid 19 test verification. He also didn’t understand the practicality of obtaining a Covid Test every 2 days, as decribed by the pharmacist.
During my stay in Paris, I decided to test this Pass Sanitaire vs US CDC Vaccine Card issue. Would anyone really ask for proof of vaccination? If so, I would have to cut my trip short by 4 days! Let’s face it, I was in Paris to tour, eat and shop. So if I couldn’t do that, well… Also, the websites of the museums and shops I wanted to visit all stated boldly that a French Pass Sanitiare was required to enter.
The Palais Garnier (Paris opera) did ask for proof of vaccination and the attendant accepted my CDC Vaccine card without question. At the Musée Carnavalet, they seemed more interested in verifying my museum entry time slot. Not one restaurant, cafe, shop or grand department store ever asked for the Pass Sanitiaire or any other vaccination verification.
So basically, I wasted 30 euros and most of my first day in Paris. But my walking step calculator did record 20,000 steps!!! 🤪🙃🤪
Advice to anyone visiting France or Europe for that matter: 1) Stay abreast of the country’s response to COVID-19. 2) Expect the government’s Covid 19 policies might change during your visit as each country tries its best to find effective solutions to Covid resurgences.
My opinion is that French businesses and cultural institutions respect what the government is trying to do - which is why they state the Pass Sanitaire is required to enter their establishments, but businessLes also understand they have serious financial obligations which are tied to bodies coming in the door. So they are not (at least not last week) enforcing the presentation of the Pass Sanitaire or any other vaccine card.