If you are resident in Portugal, you are likely to be wondering about how your expat status affects your place in the country’s Covid vaccination programme. Will you be entitled to the vaccine, and what will it depend on? Do you need to be registered with the public healthcare system and what happens if you have your own private insurance and are not reliant on state healthcare? If you have a place in the vaccination queue, will it be related to your age and state of health, for instance? We will take a look at the current situation as regards expats in Portugal and the Covid vaccine.
Portugal’s first phase of the Covid vaccination rollout is due to run from January – April, starting with people over 50 who have serious health issues (such as renal problems), healthcare professionals, people in care homes and members of the security forces.
The second stage, from April, consists of those who are 65 years and over, and those who are between 50 and 74 and who have existing illnesses.
The third stage is due to cover the rest of the population.
Portugal has a proactive vaccination programme, the Plano Nacional de Vacinação, and already has an extensive system in place for other vaccines, all of which are free and open to the entire population. The country has ordered 22 million doses, split between Johnson & Johnson’s, Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech.
However, there has recently been a scandal in Portugal relating to unauthorised vaccinations – people who are not eligible (such as relatives of health workers) have nonetheless obtained them. In addition, the rollout has attracted criticism for its slow rate: critics say that at the current rate of progress, Portugal will not be fully vaccinated until 2023. There have been issues with the delivery of the vaccine, resulting in a delay to the process. However, despite this, the vaccination rate has now reached well into six figures.
Prime Minister Antonio Costa has stated the vaccination plan is guided by four fundamental principles:
- universal for everyone
- distributed to the whole population according to technical and scientifically defined priority criteria
Be very wary of any communication you have which asks for bank details – you do not need to give any bank information.
The programme includes expats, if you have residency in the country. If you do not have residency, then you may not be eligible as a second home owner, but if Portugal is your main residence and you do not yet have formal residency, check with your nearest branch of the Saúde. Local expats have reported difficulties, however, in getting answers out of their Saúde, with some being advised to ring their consulate. Officially, you are supposed to be contacted by your local health service; authorities advise that you wait for this to happen as you will not be able to arrange your appointment yourself.
The aim is for the vaccine to be administered by the local health service and it is likely that you will receive it at your local clinic. You should hear via SMS message and if you are booked into a different vaccination centre to your local surgery, this message should contain details.
You may already have registered with the Boletim de Vacinas Eletrónico (Electronic Vaccination Record) project. This electronic record (a vaccine ecard) stores the immunisation records of all Portuguese residents.
Overall, the advice for expats in Portugal is: do not worry, because you will have the chance to be vaccinated, it will be free, and you will be alerted in due course as to the date and place of your appointment. However, make sure your local Saúde has your contact details and keep an eye on developments, as the timeline of the programme may have to be revised.