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VACCINE

How some Americans in Spain are flying back home to get the Covid vaccine sooner

As some countries' vaccination campaigns are going much faster than Spain's, can foreign residents fly back to their home countries to get the Covid-19 vaccine sooner? Some US nationals are doing exactly that, The Local finds out.

How some Americans in Spain are flying back home to get the Covid vaccine sooner
Photos: OSCAR DEL POZO,LLUIS GENE / AFP

Cross-border vaccine coordination is still in its early stages, so while it’s not likely that you will be able to go back home to get the vaccine, there are some places where it is possible.

There is no official word from the Spanish authorities on this subject yet, but The Local Spain has discovered that many foreign residents in Spain have done exactly that, travelling back to their home countries to get their first dose.

This is particularly true of some American residents in Spain who are choosing to go back to the US to get the vaccine, instead of waiting for their slot here as it may take a quite a while for their group to become eligible for the vaccine.

The United States’ vaccine rollout has been much faster than Spain’s with around 31 percent of its population already fully vaccinated compared to around nine percent for the Iberian nation. 

The United States is projected to have more than 300 million spare doses (not including those earmarked for most of the country’s children when they become eligible), according to the Duke Global Health Innovation Center. 

The Local Spain spoke with several US citizens who have flown back home to get the vaccine. 

“I didn’t go back specifically to get the vaccine, but I did have to go back, and the vaccine was a nice plus,” Kevin Sullivan, who lives in Madrid, told The Local.

Not only is it possible for US citizens to get the vaccine back in their home countries, but it seems to be a very easy process too.

“I just requested it and didn’t need a primary care physician or insurance, and did not have any out-of-pocket expenses either. I did it with a grocery store in Texas. It’s actually possible to request even if you’re non-citizen, as they want undocumented people vaccinated as well,” Sullivan explained. 

Laura Kitchin who lives in Barcelona told The Local: “I flew back to the US and got the vaccine. I do maintain my US driver’s license there, so I had zero problems getting it. The only hurdles were the paperwork and tests in order to fly back”.

Several other US residents in Spain told The Local that they had also either flown back to their country to get the vaccine or had got it when they went back to visit, but requested not to be named.

The UK’s vaccine drive is also going a lot faster than Spain’s, so will it be possible to travel back to the UK to visit family over the summer and get vaccinated there instead?

All official UK government sources state that you must be registered with a GP surgery in the UK in order to be able to get the vaccine there. Chances are that if you’re a resident in Spain, you won’t still be registered with a surgery in the UK.

If you are registered with a GP in the UK, you may have to prove you live in the UK to get the vaccine and will be questioned as to where you received your first vaccine and why.

The UK government is asking its citizens who live abroad to wait and get the jab in their country of residence. The country hopes to avoid unnecessary international travel and place additional strain on the UK’s National Health Service.

“Anyone who is returning to live in the UK from abroad will be eligible for the vaccine in line with the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) priority list. Britons living overseas should obtain the vaccine in their country of residence. They cannot arrange a vaccine in the UK from overseas,” a spokesperson for the UK Department of Health told The Express.

Therefore, you may only be able to get your first or second dose of the vaccine in the UK if you are moving back there permanently, not if you’re simply visiting over spring or summer.

Member comments

  1. Hi, I’m Roderick in Barcelona, I decided to return to the US for the vaccine. I opted for the J&J ‘one-and-done’ shot. I have a digital card on my mobile from the State of NY called the “Excelsior Pass” and the funky CDC card that any child could make on a computer. My question is will Spain or UK or greater EU accept this, will I qualify for whatever digital green pass they are planning? CatSalut called me yesterday to get the vaccine here and I told them I’ve been vaccinated and to please make a note of it on my medical records which they did but I just want to be able to stop paying for darn expensive PCR tests every time I travel.

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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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