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VACCINE

Reader question: How do I get a Covid vaccine if I’m not in Spain’s public health system?

Many readers have written in to express the worry that they will slip through the net of Spain’s vaccination programme if they not registered in the public health system.

Reader question: How do I get a Covid vaccine if I’m not in Spain’s public health system?
Photo: AFP

Some foreign residents in Spain are not entitled to free healthcare and therefore pay for private health insurance but as we are all aware, the vaccination programme is being coordinated by Spain’s government and is not available privately.

Paloma Hoffman, who represents a group of foreign residents in Benissa said a lot of people were very worried.

“There is a large group of people who are not in the system, either because they have private health insurance or have healthcare linked to another country,” she explained in an interview with Spanish radio RTE.

“These people, many elderly, aren’t accounted for at the health centres, but they are legally registered as residents here, they pay taxes. Why can’t they take the information from the town hall census and not just through the health centres?” she asked.

UPDATES: 

Will Andalusia’s unregistered foreigners have to get Covid vaccine in their home country?

How will foreigners in Spain with private health insurance be contacted for Covid-19 vaccine?

So here’s what we know so far:

Vaccines for all

Firstly, be assured that the Spanish government has emphasized that no distinction will be made between citizens and non-citizens and has pledged to vaccinate everyone in the country, regardless of their legal status and that includes those not registered within social security system including ‘illegal’ immigrants and the homeless.

“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,” insisted a Health Ministry spokesman.

This has been enshrined in the vaccination strategy unveiled on December 2nd where it explicitly states that when it comes to the vaccine, “each person must be considered and treated with equal dignity and rights”.

“This principle prohibits prioritizing access to vaccines based solely on characteristics such as race, ethnicity, religion, sex, age, nationality, origin, disabilities, economic or social condition and others,” it states.

While that should be reassurring it has left people wondering how the state will know who they are if they are not registered at the local medical centre. What about those who rely on private health insurance?

Is there a waiting list?

The Valencia government has warned against rumours that they have a vaccine waiting list.

“There is no such list. Those who are eligible for a vaccine will be vaccinated according to the risk group they belong to, as per the wider vaccine rollout,” insisted the authorities.

So how will they find you?

We don’t have information yet on how the people will be called up to be vaccinated but it will be organised by the regional health authority where you live.

Those living in Spain have been advised to contact their local health centre to register regardless of whether they are entitled to free health care or have private health insurance.

Before you do just drop in, it is advised to call ahead as some health care centres require an appointment.

You should provide the following information:

  1. Your passport (bring a copy just in case)
  2. Your residence card (green certificate if EU member or TIE if third country national). If you have one.
  3. “Certificado de empadronamiento” (registration with the Town Hall) which is no older than three months.
  4. In the case of minors, you should bring their documents and birth certificates as well. Children do not need to be present.

Keep checking the health authority announcements online in the region where you are living as each regional government will be responsible for administering the programme in their community.

You can do so my clicking on this interactive map for information in each of Spain’s autonomous regions:

What you definitely shouldn’t do:

The Valencian health authorities reported being inudated with registrations through a link on their webpage that is specifically for those with suspected coronavirus who are not already registered in the public health system.

They believe the link (https://coronavirusregistro.san.gva.es/sipcovid19/registrosinsip) has been erroneously shared on social media and want to reiterate that it is only for those with Covid symptoms seeking immediate medical attention.

“This link is for patients who have Covid-19 symptoms only (and do not have a SIP card), it will register them on the system so that they can receive the appropriate medical attention,” the Valencia government said in a statement.

“It seems this link is being circulated erroneously on social media as a way of registering to receive the vaccine for those who aren’t on the state system e.g. those with private health insurance. This is not the case, and those who have registered on the system using this link are, in fact, notifying the authorities that they have symptoms. As a result, the authorities are duty-bound to call every individual, which is placing an unnecessary strain on their system in the cases where people have registered incorrectly.”

What will it cost?

Spain has pledged that the vaccine will be free to everyone, even those who don’t have a health card, such as the homeless or irregular immigrants.

“The vaccines and the vaccinations are free for all Spain’s population,” states the Spanish government on the webpage dedicated to FAQs on the vaccination programme.

Therefore we can expect everyone working or residing in Spain to be able to get the vaccine for free, even if they aren’t registered in the Spanish state health system and no priority will be given to those with health insurance or wanting to pay for it privately – something which just isn’t an option under the state vaccination programme.

However, this is unlikely to include tourists or second home owners.

There’s no rush

Spain has begun a step-by-step vaccination scheme, placing elderly in care homes and those that work in them as first in line to get the injection.

Health workers on the frontline of the coronavirus battle are also included in the priority group for the first stage of the vaccination programme which is scheduled to last until at least the end of February.

The vaccination programme will then be unrolled across the rest of the population divided into groups depending on risk assessment which broadly falls into age range, existing conditions etc.

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COVID-19

Spain rules out EU’s advice on compulsory Covid-19 vaccination 

Spain’s Health Ministry said Thursday there will be no mandatory vaccination in the country following the European Commission’s advice to Member States to “think about it” and Germany’s announcement that it will make vaccines compulsory in February.

Spain rules out EU's advice on compulsory Covid-19 vaccination 
A Spanish man being vaccinated poses with a custom-made T-shirt showing Spain's chief epidimiologist Fernando Simón striking a 'Dirty Harry/Clint Eastwood' pose over the words "What part of keep a two-metre distance don't you understand?' Photo: José Jordan

Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Darias on Thursday told journalists Covid-19 vaccines will continue to be voluntary in Spain given the “very high awareness of the population” with regard to the benefits of vaccination.

This follows the words of European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday, urging Member States to “think about mandatory vaccination” as more cases of the Omicron variant are detected across Europe. 

READ ALSO: Is Spain proving facts rather than force can convince the unvaccinated?

“I can understand that countries with low vaccine coverage are contemplating this and that Von der Leyen is considering opening up a debate, but in our country the situation is absolutely different,” Darias said at the press conference following her meeting with Spain’s Interterritorial Health Council.

According to the national health minister,  this was also “the general belief” of regional health leaders of each of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities she had just been in discussion with over Christmas Covid measures. 

READ MORE: Spain rules out new restrictions against Omicron variant

Almost 80 percent of Spain’s total population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, a figure which is around 10 percent higher if looking at those who are eligible for the vaccine (over 12s). 

It has the highest vaccination rate among Europe’s most populous countries.

Germany announced tough new restrictions on Thursday in a bid to contain its fourth wave of Covid-19 aimed largely at the country’s unvaccinated people, with outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel speaking in favour of compulsory vaccinations, which the German parliament is due to vote on soon.

Austria has also already said it will make Covid-19 vaccines compulsory next February, Belgium is also considering it and Greece on Tuesday said it will make vaccination obligatory for those over 60.

But for Spain, strict Covid-19 vaccination rules have never been on the table, having said from the start that getting the Covid-19 jabs was voluntary. 

There’s also a huge legal implication to imposing such a rule which Spanish courts are unlikely to look on favourably. 

Stricter Covid restrictions and the country’s two states of alarm, the first resulting in a full national lockdown from March to May 2020, have both been deemed unconstitutional by Spain’s Constitutional Court. 

READ ALSO: Could Spain lock down its unvaccinated or make Covid vaccines compulsory?

The Covid-19 health pass to access indoor public spaces was also until recently consistently rejected by regional high courts for breaching fundamental rights, although judges have changed their stance favouring this Covid certificate over old Covid-19 restrictions that affect the whole population.

MAP: Which regions in Spain now require a Covid health pass for daily affairs?

“In Spain what we have to do is to continue vaccinating as we have done until now” Darias added. 

“Spaniards understand that vaccines are not only a right, they are an obligation because we protect others with them”.

What Spanish health authorities are still considering is whether to vaccinate their 5 to 11 year olds after the go-ahead from the European Medicines Agency, with regions such as Madrid claiming they will start vaccinating their young children in December despite there being no official confirmation from Spain’s Vaccine Committee yet.

READ MORE: Will Spain soon vaccinate its children under 12?

Spain’s infection rate continues to rise day by day, jumping 17 points up to 234 cases per 100,000 people on Thursday. There are now also five confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in the country, one through community transmission.

Hospital bed occupancy with Covid patients has also risen slightly nationwide to 3.3 percent, as has ICU Covid occupancy which now stands at 8.4 percent, but the Spanish government insists these figures are “almost three times lower” than during previous waves of the coronavirus pandemic.

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