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Inka Piegsa-Quischotte: Expats in Spain trying to get vaccinated face big challenges

The big initial words about everybody gettinaccinated and everybody will be treated the same are just that: big words.

It all started out with encouraging words. As recently as December, the Spanish Health Ministry issued a statement whereby everybody living in Spain would be vaccinated, be they Spaniards, residents, expats, illegal immigrants or the homeless, and be treated with equality and dignity.

It further stated that the vaccine would be free for all even if they didn’t have a social security card. Some time later, officials at the Andalusian Health System (remember that in Spain each province handles the entire vaccination program in their own way) stated that foreigners who did not have social security would have to go to their home country or regularize their situation with social security, whatever that entails.

They have retracted that statement by now. However, big problems remain to actually get registered as an expat so you can be notified when it is your turn to get the jab.

A few days ago, Spain joined the growing group of countries that have suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine because of the danger of blood clots. Thus, the number of available doses (not ample to start with) has been reduced and, consequently, the progress of vaccinations has slowed down.

What expats face to ultimately get registered with the social security center and eventually get their shot depends on their personal status. One has to distinguish between British expats, other expats and expats who have private health insurance.

My own situation

I’ll explain my own situation and the battle I have so far fought to get “on the list.” I’m German, a resident for many years, empadronado in Torrevieja where I live (which means registered with the local census), and I have private health insurance. I have no social security because I never saw the need, having an expensive, all-covering private insurance.

My first stop was at the offices of MAPFRE to see if private hospitals were provided with a quota of the available vaccines so private patients could get their shots there instead of clogging up the social security centers. The answer is, “no.” And the reason is not, as stated in the above article, that private insurers do not pay for the vaccination. I offered to pay myself but
still it was “no,” just because the state exclusively allocated the vaccines to social security centers and nowhere else. Again, discussions were recently planned to change that because it would take a lot of the burden and expense off the social security.

Next, I thought that, as I was duly empadronado, the census would share the data with the respective social security center assigned to my address so they would know who lived within their section of responsibility, knew their age and thus could notify them accordingly when it was their turn to be vaccinated. Apparently that’s not the case. There is no exchange of data between the two authorities and each expat has to fend for himself or herself.

After Brexit, British expats had to get a brand new residence permit without which they would not have a chance to get vaccinated, quite apart from being in Spain illegally. Some might choose to join the social security at the same time, but others might opt to go with private health insurance instead.

What’s next?

So, what next?

First, you need to find out which social security center you belong to, according to your address.

Next, you have to contact them to get on the list, with or without a social security number.

Don’t even try to work through their websites or to contact them by phone. I tried several days and got nowhere. Lines are constantly engaged or not answered, and the website is totally not helpful.

I then went in person to the regional headquarters of social security to find out which documents I would have to bring with me when I finally manage to make an appointment with my local office.

These are:

• your title deeds (escritura) if you own your property; otherwise, your rental agreement

• your passport

• your residence permit (for UK nationals, you need the new one, for other expats, the existing one)

• your certificate of empadronamiento and, if you are a pensioner, a certificate that you receive a pension, either in Spain or in your home country. (Make sure this document is in Spanish, and it’s best have it translated by a sworn translator.)

Then, go to your local social security center, stand in line for as long as it takes and hope for the best. I have spoken with two British expats who have successfully managed to get on the list, although they have not received a vaccination date and now – with the shortage of doses – probably will not for several months.

I have not yet made the journey because I’m not in a rush for several reasons.

• First, I know that due to my age, I’m still months away from my turn.

• Second, because I hope the government will change its mind about not supplying private hospitals with a vaccine.

• And third, because I want to wait until more information about the side effects is available, in particular what happens with AstraZeneca. In the meantime, I protect myself as best I can and have done so far, diligently washing my hands, wearing a face mask wherever I go and keeping my distance.

Of course, everybody has to make their own decisions – just know that the big initial words that everybody will get vaccinated and everybody will be treated the same are just that: big words.

About the author:

Inka Piegsa-Quischotte is an international attorney-turned-travel-and-lifestyle writer based in Spain. She has contributed to BBC/Travel, several in-flight magazines, TripSavvy (Spain) and TravelAwaits, among many other publications. After several years in Turkey, she now lives on Spain’s Costa Blanca.

See more of Inka’s work here.

Read more about Spain in our Dispatches archive here.

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