Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Getting a tetanus jab "en France"

Posted by Rosie

School sent home a note at the beginning of term saying that children should have a tetanus jab every 5 years. Bearing in mind we have been in France 4 years and I couldn't remember the boys having a jab I reckoned they were probably both due. Well it turned out Ben is OK for another few months (although I had better put a note on the calendar to remind me) but Tom was due for one now. 

In England getting the jab is easy - you call the surgery and book an appointment with the practice nurse who administers the injection. Job done. This is France though, where nothing is simple. Anyway I phoned up the surgery and explained that Tom need a "vaccination antitétanique". 
"No problem," she replied and we booked an appointment.
"Don't forget to go to the pharmacy first, though," she added as I was about to hang up.
"The Pharmacy?"
"Yes, the Pharmacy."
"Errrm, why?" I asked.
"To buy the injection," she replied in a somewhat surprised tone, "and then you come back to the Doctor's to get your ordonnance (prescription)."
Now I was confused. Why did I need a prescription AFTER I had bought the injection? Did the Doctor still give the injection or would I have to head off and find a nurse to administer it? However the receptionist assured me it was the doctor who gave the "piqûre".

Yesterday I was in Vire so I went to the pharmacy and explained I needed a Tetanus injection for my son.
"Pas de problem," she smiled and handed me over a box, reminding me to keep it in the fridge and asked for €10.21. She was a very nice lady and exceedingly easy to understand so I asked her why I needed a prescription from my Doctor.
"To claim back the cost of the injection," she explained. "Bring the box with it's bar-code, the prescription and your Carte Vitale (French Health card) and we'll pay you back the €10.21."
"Errrm, but this isn't my closest pharmacy," I said, not wishing to travel back to Vire just to claim back €10.21.
"Pas de problem," she assured me, "you can go the any pharmacy."

So this evening Tom had his jab, the Doctor gave me the prescription and I drove to the nearest pharmacy to claim back the €10.21.
"But this isn't where you bought the injection," the pharmacist said, before adding a couple more sentences I didn't grasp.
"Errrm, is that a problem?"
"I don't know," he replied. "I'll have to see what happens." And this is some-one who should KNOW the French medical system!!

Turns out it wasn't a problem and after much photocopying, printing and tearing in half of papers I left with the €10.21 in my purse and a nagging feeling that involving 4 separate people (receptionist, doctor and 2 pharmacists) and umpteen bits of paper and computer records, might not have been either the cheapest or the simplest way to protect against getting Tetanus.


  1. Oh the joys of unfamiliar procedures. Here they photocopy everything twice, take you ID number and spend 15 minutes on the computer for the smallest and simplest of administrative tasks....

  2. Wow...sounds complicated, thank goodness you have a good grasp of the language, I would have been hopeless!!

    Sue xx

  3. The UK clearly still has a lot to learn about creating unnecessary bureaucracy!

  4. And you can be your bottom dollar it'll be different when it gets to Ben's turn!

  5. That's why we stick with the NHS: to make up for the awful weather you expats have escaped :P

  6. The second pharmacist tried to assure me that the French Health system is better than the UK and had less wastage. To be honest at the time I wasn't convinced. I must admit however that the level of care here is excellent. Both boys have had grommets and had regular subsequent ear check-ups and hearing tests. Ben also had regular check-ups and X-rays for a year after he broke his arm.


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