What foreign residents in Catalonia need to know about getting the Covid vaccine

Catalonia's public health secretary Josep Maria Argimon has said that everybody in Catalonia is entitled to receive the vaccine, regardless of nationality and migration status. Here's everything we know so far about how the Catalan authorities are planning to vaccinate its 114,000 foreign residents. 

Man getting vaccinated in Catalonia
Josep LAGO / AFP

Covid-19 vaccine information in English or specifically aimed at foreign residents in Spain is hard to find currently. This is partly because there is no central government decision on how foreigners should be incorporated into the vaccination campaigns. It’s up to all 17 regional governments to decide how, and to inform their extranjeros of their Covid vaccination strategies. 

So far, we’ve covered the vaccination situation for foreigners in Andalusia, Valencia and Murcia regions. The general advice for those with private health insurance in the above regions, being that they should either make sure they have their town hall registration (padrón) up to date or contact their local health authorities for a temporary public health card.

READ ALSO: Empadronamiento in Spain: What is it and how do I apply?

The most important takeaway for this anonymous group is that they must ensure their local health authorities know of their existence.

Foreigners who are residents, pay social security contributions in Spain and are registered with the public health system will already be incorporated into the vaccine strategy, although it’s always useful to check your local health centre has your most up-to-date contact details. 

Where do foreigners in Catalonia stand with regards to the Covid-19 vaccine?

Everyone resident in Catalonia has the right to access the public healthcare system, regardless of their residency status, the Catalan public healthcare system states. 

If you live in Catalonia, the best way to ensure you’re included in the vaccine rollout plan is to register with the Catalan public healthcare system – CatSalut.

READ ALSO: How to apply for a public healthcare card in Spain

Catalan public health secretary Josep Maria Argimon said during a press conference in February that “the only requirement [for getting the vaccine] is having the public health card”.

To get a public health card, you must ensure that you have your padrón certificate from your town hall. You must also be paying into the Spanish social security system. 

If you do not pay social security because you are not employed or registered as self-employed (autónomo) and are not automatically eligible for the CatSalut public health card, you can access it in one of two ways.

If you can afford to do so, you can apply for the special provision of health care here, known as the convenio especial. This has a cost of 60 euros per month for those under €65 and €157 euros per month for those over 65. Here’s more information on how to apply for it in Catalonia. You can even sign up for this temporarily when your group is called up to be vaccinated and de-register later. 

Lower-income foreign residents who are not registered in the Spanish social security system can apply for help with public coverage here or via this online application form.

You can also process the application for affiliation with the INSS as Holder or Beneficiary and attach it electronically with your DNI / NIE when you apply for your health card.

What else do foreigners in Catalonia need to know?

The Spanish government website states: “All people included in the priority groups are being vaccinated regardless of their nationality or their type of insurance”.

If you have not made your status as resident official, you should do so as soon as possible by registering at the town hall, as well as getting your green certificate or TIE. Having your padrón, in particular, will be essential in registering with your local health authority. 

If applying for a public CatSalut card, you will have a specific public doctor assigned to you. Foreigners who don’t have a doctor assigned to them on the day they have their vaccination appointment should present their European Health Card, their passport or ID card and their padrón town hall certificate to prove that they are residing in Catalonia. 

READ ALSO: TSE Card: How to get a Spanish European Health Insurance card

The vaccination registrations in Catalonia are being done through the Catalan La Meva Salut online system. When your group is called up to be vaccinated, you will receive an SMS text message to let you know. You should then visit this webpage in order to get an appointment for your vaccine. There is an option to register with your CIP CatSalut number or an option to register with your NIE or passport number if you don’t have the former.

If you don’t receive the text message and you know that your group has been called up, you should register for the appointment via the same webpage anyway to ensure that they have a record of you.

How about if I only have private health insurance?

Catalan public health secretary Argimon has recommended that foreigners and Spanish nationals who only have private medical insurance contact their doctors and get in touch with public health system officials once their group is called to receive the vaccine. 

During a press conference, he assured that everybody in Catalonia is entitled to receive the vaccine, regardless of nationality and migration status, including homeless people.

To make the process go smoother, you could apply for a public health CatSalut card via one of the ways mentioned above, even if it is only temporary. 

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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.