How to get a vaccine passport in Europe with an Australian vaccine certificate

You might want to start your European holiday in Switzerland. Or France, or maybe even Italy.

Thinking of a European jaunt this northern summer? Sampling the vineyards of Portugal's Douro Valley, or how about a week poking around the Italian lakes? Plenty of us are, but right now some Aussies are having a tough time navigating Europe's ever-changing COVID-19 passport protocols.

The reason is Australia's International COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate (ICVC). That proves you're fully vaccinated, and that's what you need to get into Spain, Germany or any other European country, but it won't get you into the Prado Museum, let you sit down in a restaurant in many parts of Europe or take a train from Munich to Vienna. For that you're going to need a local health pass, or better still the European Digital COVID Certificate (EU DCC), but that's not an option for Aussie travellers. However there are a couple of ways to get around this tricky problem.

The Swiss pass

Along with most European countries, Switzerland has its own COVID certificate, required for anyone over 16 years to enter galleries and museums, gyms, indoor restaurants, bars and just about any other public indoor space. Unlike every other European country except France, the Swiss version is readily available to foreign visitors who have been inoculated with an accredited vaccine, and all the vaccines that have been administered in Australia qualify.

But why would you want it if you're not going to Switzerland?

Because the Swiss COVID certificate is compatible with the EUDCC, and that opens the door to free travel around the EU and the Schengen area countries as well as third countries connected with the EU gateway, for example North Macedonia, Turkey and Ukraine. Provided your vaccine is on the list approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), and that includes Cominarty (Pfizer), Vaxzevria (AstraZenica) and Spikevax (Moderna), you're good to go.

Implicit to this is the assumption that you're intending to visit Switzerland. The online application form asks for your date of arrival and where you'll be staying and you need proof, but some applicants suggest it's easy to get around this problem without intending to set foot in the country. For example by making a hotel reservation in Switzerland via an online travel agency which does not require an upfront deposit, and then cancelling the booking once the certificate has been issued. Beyond doubt the Swiss authorities would be aware of this but, since they've chosen to monetise their COVID certificate for a processing fee of 30 Swiss francs ($A45.50), it could be they're ignoring the loophole, and the applicant's burden of proof is reasonably stringent with extreme penalties for forgeries, so no harm done.

The pass is issued in English, plus one other major European language which you can select on your application. Processing time is in the range 2-5 days.

The application platform for the Swiss National COVID certificate can be found here:

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covidcertificate-form.admin.ch/foreign

Proof of vaccination in Italy

Italy is one country where Australia's ICVC is accepted. Not specifically, but according to a statement from Italy's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, "All other foreign citizens vaccinated abroad with the above-mentioned vaccines are entitled to access all venues and services for which a Green Pass is mandatorily required in Italy." The list of eligible vaccines includes those approved by the EMA, and it you were vaccinated in Australia, once again you're on the side of the righteous.

Note that unlike the Swiss, the Italian health authorities are not giving you an Italian Green Pass, which would entitle you to admission to anywhere in Europe that demands proof of vaccination, but in Italy you have all the rights that apply to the country's Green Pass holders.

There's a good chance that the barman at the Cipriani isn't going to know that, nor might the station attendant at Rome's Termini station, since a Green Pass is required for inter-regional train services. Therefore you'd need to carry a printed copy of the ministry's directive, in Italian as well as English, with the URL of the ministry's website loaded on your smartphone.

How to get a French health pass

If you're planning to visit France and perhaps some other European countries it's worth putting France at the top of your itinerary.

France was the first European country to allow anyone who had been vaccinated overseas to apply for a French health pass when it opened online applications in 2020. That was intended for the use of visitors to help buoy up the tourism industry of the world's most visited country, but no proof of intent to visit France was required, it was free to apply and the scheme has since been abandoned.

The health pass is now available via the country's pharmacies. More than 3000 pharmacies in France have been authorised to issue a vaccine equivalency health pass to foreigners who qualify. You need to visit the pharmacy with your passport and a hard copy of the original vaccination certificate, and the ICVC will do the job. The cost is €36 or less, depending on the pharmacy.

The pass comes in digital format and can be stored in France's TousAntiCovid app which is recognised throughout the EU plus the EU gateway countries. A full list of all the qualifying pharmacies can be found on the Sante.fr website [sante.fr/how-to-obtain-a-french-health-pass]

Since December 15, 2021, those aged 65 years and over who completed their initial vaccinations more than seven months previously have been required to present a proof of a booster dose to be eligible to receive their French vaccine equivalency health pass.

See also: I dreamt of a white Christmas in Europe. Now I'm locked down with no vaccine passport

See also: In the UK for Christmas, I caught COVID - and now I can't come home

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