Covid France: Why must mixed-vaccine travellers quarantine in England?
Many people in France have received two different Covid vaccine types, and are considered fully vaccinated but not so in England where a recent rule change means many mixed-dose travellers must still quarantine. We tried to find out why
People in France who have received two different types of Covid vaccine are not considered fully vaccinated under English health rules Pic: Siam.pukkato / Shutterstock
The UK has re-confirmed that people who have received two different types of approved Covid-19 vaccines in France are not considered fully vaccinated in England, but are not providing any scientific data to explain why.
The UK government updated its travel rules for England on August 10 to say that people arriving who have had doses of two different Covid vaccines are not considered fully vaccinated. It means such travellers will not be able to skip quarantine if coming from amber countries including France.
France, by contrast, considers a person fully vaccinated if they have had two doses of different vaccine types and it is not unusual in France for people to have been vaccinated with different Covid vaccine types.
This is especially the case as the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine was initially offered to everyone before being limited to only those aged over 55.
It meant that some people in France got a first dose of AstraZeneca and a second dose of another vaccine, most commonly Pfizer-BioNTech.
A spokesperson for the UK’s health ministry would not directly answer The Connexion's question on whether there was a solution enabling people who have been vaccinated with two different Covid-19 vaccines to be recognised as fully vaccinated.
The spokeswoman instead provided a general statement that did not relate to the situation of mixed vaccine doses.
The ministry was unable to provide The Connexion today (August 24) with information on what scientific data had been used to make the decision.
A Public Health England report on the UK’s Covid-19 vaccination programme, published August 6, 2021, states that “evidence from trials suggest that those who receive mixed [Covid vaccine] schedules, including mRNA and adenovirus vectored vaccines, make a good immune response”.
A UK study carried out by researchers at University of Oxford and published in June found that mixing two different Covid vaccine types offered good protection against the disease.
It was based on sample size of 850 patients aged 50 and above.
It found that a combination of AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines produced higher levels of antibodies than two doses of just AstraZeneca.
The results match other studies, carried out in Spain and Germany, that suggest a mix of different vaccine types offers strong protection to patients. These have all been relatively small studies.
The French health ministry confirmed to The Connexion today (August 24) that it is looking into the issue and whether mixed-dose fully vaccinated people are eligible for a third dose.
How do authorities check that a person has received different Covid vaccine types?
A spokesperson for UK’s Department for Transport said that it is up to travel authorities and border agents to ensure that the vaccination certificates are eligible.
As EU Covid-19 vaccination certificates only state that two out of the required two doses have been administered, and name only the second vaccine type, it is not clear how travel authorities or border agents will be able to see by looking at the EU vaccine certificates that the traveller has been vaccinated with two different Covid vaccine doses.
The UK government states that it accepts EU Digital Covid Certificates – the ones available to people who are vaccinated against Covid-19 in France.
It also states that people who have been vaccinated in the EU with approved vaccines are not required to quarantine or take a PCR test on or after day eight after their arrival in the UK from amber list countries.
All travellers to England are required to fill out a passenger locator form. On this form, travellers are asked to state if they are fully vaccinated. Under England’s rules, those who have received two different Covid vaccine types are not considered fully vaccinated.
What about Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?
This rule is only stated on the UK government’s website, with the rules applying to travellers arriving in England.
Personal effects of the decision
Several readers have written in to say that they have received mixed Covid vaccines and are therefore essentially locked out of visiting the UK.
Chris, who lives in Gers (Occitanie), has flights booked to the UK to attend a family wedding in September.
He booked the flights before the UK government’s website was updated with this rule.
His first Covid-19 vaccine dose was AstraZeneca and his second was Pfizer-BioNTech, due to the fact he was vaccinated in two different locations in France.
He said that if the UK rules do not change, he will be forced to miss the wedding. It will also mean he will not get to visit his 88-year-old mother who lives in a care home.
“We are just waiting to see,” he said.
“If the rules don’t change, then there is no point in us going back, so we are going to miss the wedding and the opportunity to see my mum.”