CORONAVIRUS

NGOs call on Spanish government for guidelines over vaccination of migrants and other collectives without healthcare cards

The Covid-19 vaccine campaign is meant to be universal but as the target age range drops the challenge of immunizing groups such as the homeless will increase

Seasonal workers rebuild a burnt-out hut in Palos de la Frontera (Huelva).
Seasonal workers rebuild a burnt-out hut in Palos de la Frontera (Huelva).Paco Puentes

Spain’s vaccination campaign is open to everyone living in the country, regardless of their immigration status. But it is still unclear how the regions – which are in charge of their own inoculation processes – are going to reach collectives who are invisible to the system. The homeless, for example, or foreign-born seniors who are legally living with family members resident in Spain but are not eligible for a healthcare card, run the risk of being excluded. That’s according to 40 different NGOs, who jointly denounced the situation on Thursday.

The lack of a common plan is having scant effect on the current stage of the campaign, which is focusing on the over-60s. But as the target ages fall, the challenge of informing, locating and vaccinating tens of thousands of people will increase.

Several organizations have denounced the situation and want the Health Ministry to ensure that nobody is left without a vaccine

In general, the regions have adopted three systems to locate these people. Some, such as Galicia, have set up telephone lines where people without a healthcare card can get information. But according to the organization Médicos del Mundo, this service either offers no response or does not provide trustworthy information.

Meanwhile, in Asturias and Aragón, healthcare centers have instructions to include this group on an ad-hoc list after they present an ID document. In Madrid, however, it is essential to be on the municipal register, known as the padrón, before you can be vaccinated.

Other regions, such as Castilla y León and Castilla-La Mancha, have called on NGOs to supply the names of the people they assist and who are willing to give their details so that they can be vaccinated. In Valencia, anyone who wants a Covid-19 vaccine can request one in a healthcare center or via an NGO.

The organizations who have denounced the situation – headed by Amnesty International, among others – are calling on the Health Ministry to set out “binding directives” to guarantee that no one without a healthcare card is left without a vaccine. The Health Ministry did not respond to EL PAÍS as to whether there are plans to harmonize the criteria to guarantee immunization for these collectives, but a spokesperson insisted that the national health system “does not discriminate against anyone” and pointed out that it is the regions that are in charge of their own campaigns.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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