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VACCINE

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

Andalusia's health department has reportedly said that foreigners in the southern Spanish region who aren’t registered with the public health system should get the Covid-19 vaccine in their own home countries. The Local spoke to Marbella's Councillor for Foreigners to find out more.

Will Andalusia's unregistered foreigners have to get Covid vaccine in their home country?
Photo: Cristina Quicler/AFP

MARCH 8TH UPDATE: Andalusia’s foreigners WILL get the vaccine, but how should they register?

Health department representatives from the southern Spanish region have stressed that only foreigners who are “beneficiaries of the Spanish public health system” will be contacted to receive the Covid-19 vaccine as that’s the criteria for the vaccine campaign, according to an article published in local daily Málaga Hoy on Tuesday.

Andalusia Council for Health and Families has allegedly echoed these words, adding that foreigners in the region who aren’t properly registered in Spain should go to their “consulate” for “their situation to be processed and normalised”.

It’s unclear what The Andalusian government could have meant by ‘normalising their situation’, whether they were referring to obtaining public healthcare through residency or simply making their existence known on some sort of medical record.

The fact that they also allegedly addressed this matter to residents using only “private health insurance” in Andalusia at least implies they want foreign consulates to handle these under-the-radar groups.

The Local Spain tried to confirm the information published in Málaga Hoy with the Andalusian Health Service, Marbella’s City Council, the Malaga branch of Andalusia’s Council for Health and Families, and even Málaga Hoy itself but none were available for comment on Tuesday.

Which foreigners will reportedly have the right to the vaccine in Andalusia?

“Contracted employees and self-employed people” and those “registered and contributing to Spain’s social security”, for example those paying in amounts through the convenio especial scheme, can get the vaccine at public centres in Andalusia, Remedios Bocanegra, Councilor for foreign residents at Marbella City Council, is quoted as saying in local daily Málaga Hoy.

Pensioners who present or have presented an S1 model “at the National Institute of Social Security (INSS)” will also get the vaccine.

Healthcare in Spain: the steps to apply for the S1 form for UK state pensioners

Foreigners with a European Health Insurance card will also be eligible to receive the vaccine, the Andalusian Health Service (SAS) has confirmed.

Bocanegra added that “immigrants from third countries in an irregular situation” and who lack the economic means may be vaccinated against the coronavirus , for which they may “request temporary health coverage”, which can be “for 6 months or 1 year at most” .

The rest of Andalusia’s foreigners who do not fall in these categories will for now not be incorporated into the region’s initial vaccination campaign, Bocanegra stated, referring primarily to those “with private health insurance that can’t access public healthcare” and foreigners “who have a second home here and spend the cold winter months away from their countries in north and central Europe or the UK”.

Are the statements true?

“Currently, those statements I made are true but the situation is constantly changing and advancing,” Remedios Bocanegra told The Local Spain on Wednesday. 

“The statements were made a week ago but we’re currently in discussions with the Andalusian Health Department to get foreigners with private health insurance registered at the town hall to get their padrón so that they can be contacted by public health authorities.

“It has not been confirmed yet on a regional level but that’s one of the current topics of discussion among the different health department representatives in Andalusia.,” Bocanegra stated.

“This group of foreigners will have to prove they reside here or have a property, it’s not going to be possible for foreigners who are on holiday or on a temporary visit to Spain to get access to the Covid-19 vaccine through Spain’s public healthcare.”

Photo: ANDER GILLENEA / AFP

The Marbella City Councillor is quoted as saying that the number of people registered at the town hall in the coastal city “was increasing an incredible amount” already, probably as it has been suggested (not confirmed officially across Spain) as one of the ways for health centres to access extra records of residents that aren’t registered with a public doctor.

Her earlier suggestions for those affected by the announcement were to either “wait” or “consider returning to their country”, keeping in mind that the limit on time spent in Spain depends on nationality (90 out of 180 days for non-EU nationals).

The Spanish government has previously stated 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 with the 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.

Spain’s private health association ASPE has suggested to the Spanish government to let private clinics in the country buy Covid-19 vaccine doses from the pharmaceutical companies producing them, something which Madrid is reportedly unable to do because it goes against the Spanish and EU vaccine strategy.

READ MORE:

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

Spain has around 5.4 million foreign residents but according to social security statistics, 3 million of them are not affiliated to the contribution system that gives access to Spain’s public health.

“The line that the Spanish government has given us is that the private insurance companies, which are called mutuas, are currently coordinating with the regional health authorities on how the vaccine is going to be rolled out to those with private health insurance,” Martyn Standing, from the Department of Health in Alicante’s British Consulate, said during the latest Facebook Q&A by the British Embassy in Spain.

“If you need to get an update on this, we would suggest you contact your private health insurance company because they are currently working with public authorities and should be able to give you an update on when you’ll receive your vaccination.”

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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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