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:
“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:
- 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.
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.
If you are an expat resident in France, you are likely to be wondering about how your expat status affects your place in France’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, do you need a carte vitale, 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 and the Covid vaccine in France.
The main point to be aware of is that the French government intends to vaccinate everyone regardless of their citizenship status. The Ministry of Health says that:
“Everyone residing in France will be invited to get vaccinated according to the prioritisation of groups as outlined in the vaccination campaign…Seeing as this is a public health issue, unregistered people as well as those in precarious situations [such as the homeless] can get vaccinated for free.”
You will not need a carte vitale in order to be vaccinated, although it is advisable to make sure that you are registered with your local clinic as some expats have reported difficulties due to not having a social security number and there is sometimes a discrepancy between what governments intend and what actually happens! The exceptions to the programme are expats who have second homes in France, and tourists.
You will need to take ID with you, such as a passport or your carte de séjour, and as an expat it might also be a good idea to take proof of address such as a utility bill with you. You will need to fill out a straightforward health questionnaire and sign a consent form prior to your vaccination. You will be asked to stay in the centre for 15 minutes after your vaccination in case of any side effects.
Your vaccination will also be free: be very wary of any communication you have which asks for bank details – you do not need to give any bank information.
At the time of writing, France’s vaccination programme is open to those over 75, those in high risk health groups, and frontline health workers. If you are in this group and you have not yet been vaccinated or had a letter from your doctor, you can book an appointment online via Doctolib, Maiia or KelDoc, or via the government’s vaccination helpline: 0800 009 110 (7/7 from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.)
Doctolib is available as an app on your phone and you will need to register. It may not have details of all the vaccination centres on it yet. If you prefer to receive your jab at your local doctor, this is likely to be an option at some point but will depend on the vaccine: there are logistical issues with the Pfizer/BionTech vaccine due to the temperatures at which it needs to be stored.
Those in the 65 – 74 age group are next in line.
The AstraZeneca vaccine was due to be rolled out on February 6. The government says that it will be reserved primarily for health personnel, then for people aged 50 to 65 with co-morbidities and ultimately to all 50-65 years.
If you are interested in the way that the French rollout is going, since the programme did draw some fire early in the year for being slow, you can check up on progress on Data.gouv.fr.
You may also find the following sites of use:
- Ministry of Solidarity and Health (information on vaccine policies and Covid-19)
- Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS) (information on vaccine recommendations)
- vaccination-info-service.fr (for information on vaccination)
Overall, the advice for expats in France 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.