COVID-19 vaccination: These countries are catering for expats

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Published on 2021-03-29 at 13:00 by Veedushi
In many countries, mass vaccination has already started. While many still have negative thoughts, others are left in limbo. Expats who are not eligible for vaccination in their host country might have to go back home. This is what we know up to now.

Expats in Spain are troubled about the lack of information regarding the COVID-19 vaccination. A few weeks ago, some regions, such as Andalusia, announced that expats having private insurance won't be considered. Only residents and those who have registered with the Spanish public health system will be vaccinated for free. Foreign retirees have to go to the National Social Security Institute with their S1 form, their passport and proof of residence to be eligible. This also applies to holders of the European Health Insurance Card. Health insurance companies in Spain do not provide coverage for COVID-19 vaccination.

Is going back home an option?

Since the Brexit, there's uncertainty about whether British expats living in the European Union are eligible for vaccination abroad. Can they return to the UK to get vaccinated? The UK Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization has already made it clear that British expatriates must be vaccinated in their host country and cannot request the vaccine from overseas. Only Britons who plan to return to the UK to stay are eligible will land on the priority list. But they will have to re-register with a local general practitioner. The British government is thus trying to limit non-essential travel to the country. The National Health Service (NHS) is already under heavy pressure and struggling with the current vaccination campaign.

Today, most countries, including the European Union, have based their COVID-19 vaccination campaigns on a priority list. In countries where vaccination is free of charge, the most vulnerable groups are vaccinated first. Age, health conditions and professions are other criteria that are being considered. In the United States, for example, and in many other countries, healthcare professionals, including expats, are on the priority list. However, Americans living abroad are advised to get vaccinated in their host country as no provision has been made for them.

France, meanwhile, has found the answer for French expats living in countries that do not have EU approved vaccines. The first batch of EU-approved vaccines was only shipped to these countries early March. So French expats living in some 92 countries will now be able to get vaccinated. But for those living in countries where these vaccines won't be available, there's another option. They can travel to France for vaccination! Still, this only applies to a small proportion of French expats.

On the other hand, Israel, which is on top of the global vaccination list, has also allowed its citizens to return home for vaccinations in recent months.

Which countries are vaccinating expats?

Many people are still protesting against Covid-19 vaccination. Still, several countries are including expats in their vaccination programs as recognition for their vital contribution to their economies and societies. Malaysia, for example, has engaged to vaccinate not only foreign diplomats, students, professionals and their families and foreign retirees but also refugee card holders. The country should receive a first stock of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines this week and has also ordered Sputnik V, Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines.

As part of its new recovery strategy, Shanghai is also planning to vaccinate expatriates free of charge. From March 29, expats can visit the nearest municipality to be vaccinated. However, certain criteria have been set, such as age. They will receive their two doses of the Chinese vaccine on apointment only, via a dedicated mobile app. However, expats who are not covered by Chinese medical insurance will be charged around $ 15 per dose.

In Bali, Indonesia, expats living in “green” areas, such as Ubud and Sanur, might be eligible for free vaccination. But for the provincial government, this measure requires proper coordination. It's worth noting that Bali has also implemented a new strategy to revive its tourism industry, on which it relies heavily. This strategy includes free vaccination for foreigners.

Meanwhile, Kuwait has already vaccinated some 500,000 residents, including expatriates, in recent weeks. But more than a million requests have already been made on the online COVID-19 vaccination platform. The country is also planning to extend its vaccination campaign to several categories of employees. Specialised medical teams have been set up and redeployed to the various industries to ensure that no one is excluded. Dubai, for its part, is offering free vaccination to permanent residents as well as remote work visa holders. Note that the United Arab Emirates, as well as Bahrain, are well ahead of other countries in terms of COVID-19 vaccination.

Expats have their say

Simon, a British expat in Austria, has registered for COVID-19 vaccination in his host country in February. So for him, the question of returning to his home country does not even arise. " I think it is very irresponsible to be travelling right now unless it is for essential travel". For John, an American expatriate in the Philippines, vaccination is all just a matter of time now. “I live in Davao, and the authorities here already have all the necessary information about the residents, so I just have to wait for my turn. Besides, vaccination is free here for permanent residents," he says. As for Maureen, a Briton who lives in Malta, she is relieved to have received her first dose last week.