25 Mar, 2021 @ 20:30
3 mins read

Expats in Spain frustrated at ‘lack of clarity’ over access to Covid-19 vaccines

A sanitary worker preparing a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine
A sanitary worker preparing a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine

FOREIGNERS living in Spain have expressed worry and frustration at not knowing when and if they will be called up for a Covid-19 vaccination jab.

The biggest concern is from those who are not registered in Spain’s public health system, either because they have private health insurance or because they are still going through the residency process.

Some readers have described how they have been passed from one health authority to another, without getting any answers.

“My husband and I are both retired expat residents who have lived in Sevilla since 2017 where we registered with the town hall (empradonado) and are paying our income taxes,” explained Cristina Covalschi who got in touch with The Olive Press.

The couple said they have never used the public health system and therefore are not registered at their local Centro de Salud but they both have private health insurance.

“We only want to learn how we can be included in the proper database so that we will be contacted when the vaccine becomes available for our age group,” she said.

So far efforts to find out how to that have proved fruitless.

“I have made appointments with various agencies during the last weeks and have been asking this question repeatedly,” she explained. 

“But instead of getting a clear answer, we have been sent from one to another without any result.”

Andalucia’s Consejeria de Salud (regional health department) told her they had no knowledge of the situation and to contact their consulates in case there might be an agreement for vaccination in place.

“We did that but our consulates said they have no knowledge of any agreement and advised to contact our health insurance company.”

Next stop Sanitas.

“Our health insurance company Sanitas had no knowledge of the situation and told us to contact the local centro de salud in our neighborhood,” she said.

“Then the centro de salud in our neighborhood had no knowledge and told us to contact our health insurance company (Sanitas).”

A sanitary worker preparing a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine
How will those not in public health system be called up for the jab?

On Thursday The Olive Press put in a call to Spain’s Ministry of Health to ask for clarification and was assured that “everyone living in Spain will be offered the vaccine”.

“The Spanish government has said that everyone living in Spain will have access to the vaccine, whether they are registered in the public health system or have private health insurance,” the spokeswoman said.

But she admitted that she could not give clear guidelines on how that would happen.

“It is up to the individual regional health authorities to put a system in place to notify them. If in doubt people should contact their local health authorities to ask how this is being done.”

She emphasized that even those who were in an “irregular” situation – that is those who did not have proper paperwork to prove they were in Spain legally – were still entitled to the vaccine.

“Yes, here it gets more complicated,” she admitted. “But people will be entitled to it as they are to emergency health care, so when it becomes available for the group they fall into based on age and vulnerability, they should be able to access it.”

The British Embassy in Madrid also offers reassurance on the matter, if not a clear answer.

“The Spanish Government’s Vaccination Strategy is clear that, as a matter of public health, all people living in Spain are eligible for the vaccine, regardless of nationality or residency status,” a spokesman from the British Embassy told The Olive Press.

“At the current time, those in the priority groups are being vaccinated – irrespective of nationality or type of sickness insurance. The Vaccination Strategy is updated regularly to include new priority groups as the number of doses available gradually increases.?

“?Those UK nationals who are already registered in the public health system should be contacted by their regional health service to arrange an appointment.?

“The Spanish authorities are asking insurance companies to coordinate with regional health services in order to provide vaccines to their customers.

“We are in touch with the Spanish authorities regarding progress of the rollout and what that means for UK nationals. Meanwhile UK Nationals living in Spain can contact their local health centre or insurer for more information.”

Spain has so far administered 6.6million doses in total of the three vaccines currently authorized for use in the EU: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca.

The latest data published on March 24 shows that 10.4% of Spain’s population have received two doses and just 4.6% have received both, broadly in line with the EU average but far below the vaccination rate in the UK.


Fiona Govan

Fiona Govan joined The Olive Press in March 2021. She moved to Spain in 2006 to be The Daily Telegraph’s Madrid correspondent and then worked for six years as Editor of The Local Spain. She lives in Madrid’s Malasaña district with her dog Rufus.

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