UK citizens in Spain refused Covid vaccines amid Brexit teething problems

·3 min read
People in a waiting area after they have received a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination center inside the Fira de Barcelona exhibition space in Barcelona, Spain - Angel Garcia /Bloomberg
People in a waiting area after they have received a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination center inside the Fira de Barcelona exhibition space in Barcelona, Spain - Angel Garcia /Bloomberg

British citizens in Spain say they are being refused access to Covid-19 jabs, despite orders from the country's national government to extend the vaccination campaign to all residents.

Local officials are refusing vaccinations on the grounds that expats do not have a public health card, because a condition of their post-Brexit residency is that they have to take out private health insurance.

John McKenzie, a 42-year-old with diabetes and heart condition, told The Telegraph he has been to his local health centre in El Sauzal, Tenerife, four times to try to register since the vaccination rollout began at the start of the year.

“The first time they said they cannot register people on private insurance for the vaccine in the absence of any instruction from the Canarian government,” Mr McKenzie said.

“Go away, we don’t vaccinate foreigners,” Mr McKenzie said he was told on another visit. “It’s very frightening not being able to have the vaccine when you have health conditions like I do.”

The Telegraph also contacted the Canary Islands health department, but got no answer.

Spain’s Health Ministry said its instructions are absolutely clear that all residents should have equal access to vaccination when it is the turn of their age or health group.

“However, it is the regional governments who are in charge of the vaccination programme,” a spokesperson from the Spanish government said.

“It’s very inconsistent. Some British residents feel excluded and others have been able to register,” said Jim Phillips, from Brexpats, which helps British people in Spain understand and deal with the complications of Brexit.

The Brexpats organisation said it has received many complaints from UK citizens being told that they cannot register.

The group said the vaccination problem is another on a long list of bureaucratic issues faced by British residents, even though, as in this case, Brexit should not have any impact on their eligibility.

Mr Phillip added: “It’s a problem because the Canary Islands wants to open fully to tourism with 70 per cent of the population vaccinated, and these people being excluded tend to live in key tourism areas.”

Kate Harmond, originally from Brighton and who now lives on the island of Lanzarote, says she and her husband, both in their mid-sixties, managed to get their first jab after fighting tooth and nail with the staff at a health centre in Arrecife.

“We had an appointment, but when we got there they said that we couldn’t have the vaccine as we did not have a public health card,” Mrs Harmond said.

“Luckily, I had a Spanish friend with me and had photocopies of every single possible document you can imagine to prove we are residents, and we got our jabs. The next thing will be to see if we can get a vaccination certificate for travelling, or whether that will become the next battle.”

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