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How To Get The Covid Vaccine As An Expat In Spain

If you are an expat in Spain, you are likely to be wondering about how your status affects your place in Spain’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 (Convenio Especial), and what happens if you have your own private insurance? 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 and the Covid vaccine.

The Spanish government has said that it intends to make no distinction between citizens and non-citizens when it comes to the rollout of the vaccination programme, a process which is at the time of writing approaching the end of its first phase, in which care home residents and frontline health workers have been the first to receive the vaccine. Its stated aim is to vaccinate everyone, including illegal immigrants: like a number of countries, it is essentially offering an immigration amnesty in order to get as many of the population inoculated as possible.

You do need to be aware that Spain has experienced difficulties with the amount of vaccine supplied: Madrid had to halt its vaccine programme in the last week of January. This is part of an ongoing row about the EU’s vaccine commissioning process, since Spain falls under the EU’s overall vaccination programme.

The Health Ministry has explicitly said that, in concurrence with the vaccine plan outlined on December 2nd, “All those living in Spain will be able to receive the vaccination against the virus as the campaign unrolls. Vaccination is universal, it includes all people.”

Your vaccination will be free: be very wary of any communication you have which asks for bank details – you do not need to give any bank information. However, it is advisable to ensure that you are registered with your local clinic and that they have your contact details. It is not clear yet whether your local vaccination centre will be your clinic or a designated vaccine centre (some countries have been using cathedrals and other religious centres, plus football stadiums and so forth).

You can be vaccinated even if you do not have a health card. The Health Ministry says:

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“The Health Service of each Autonomous Community will contact the people to be vaccinated, following the established order of prioritization. It is important not to contact the health system individually about COVID-19 vaccination until then.”

However, this brings up issues for expats who are not registered with local health centres. Private insurers will not be able to arrange for your vaccination. To get around this, most local health centres are allowing expats to do a “soft registration” in which they submit their name and contact information solely for the purpose of receiving the vaccine, without registering as a patient at the health centre.

Take along the following documentation to the clinic:

  • passport
  • certificado de empadronamiento (this is your registration with the Town Hall and should be less than three months old
  • residence card (this is your green certificate if you are a member of the EU or your TIE if you are a third country national, which will apply to recent British expats)
  • children’s documents and birth certificates if you want to register them as well,

If you do not have all of the above documents, take as many with you as you can – the Spanish government have guaranteed that they will vaccinate everyone regardless of their immigration or residency status. Some expats report that local health centres have been slow to catch on to the idea of “soft registrations,” so you may need to be insistent!

Spain has a three-stage vaccination programme which began in December with the Pfizer vaccine; the Moderna vaccine has also now been brought into use. It is likely that, in line with other countries, the rollout will be age based with some occupational input (if you are a frontline medical worker, for example). The population has been divided into 15 groups, and each phase is intended to take three months. Some regions are intending to start phase 2 vaccination – of the over 80s, who are the first group in phase 2 – before the end of phase 1. Minister of Health Salvador Illa says that the vaccination programme is flexible and may change somewhat as new data comes in.

The situation is somewhat complex because not everyone will receive the same vaccine: the AstraZeneca variant is due to be given to the age group between 18-55, for instance, but it is likely to go first to non-frontline workers. The very elderly were supposed to be the priority group but it seems that frontline health workers have in fact been the first to receive it (this is in part because there have been continued outbreaks of Covid in some care homes).

The Health Ministry says that all regions have now administered more than 70% of the doses that they have received. The question now is whether Spain will have enough vaccines for the rollout to continue smoothly – it looks as though it will, as the Janssen vaccine will also be incoming in addition to the AstraZeneca.

The aim is to start phase 2 by spring at the latest, with the aim of having between 15 and 20 million people vaccinated by June and the entire population of 47 million vaccinated by September.

There will be a vaccine registry and those who have refused the vaccine will not be able to remain anonymous. You will need to give ‘informed verbal consent’ before you have the vaccine, and you are likely to be asked to stay in the centre for 15 minutes after the vaccination in case of any side effects.

Thus the advice for expats in Spain 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.