EU Covid certificate still out of reach for many foreigners vaccinated without health cards
Widespread complaints of misleading guidelines and confusing information
When the Catalan government announced in April that it was creating a 'displaced persons' registry for residents without CatSalut health cards ('TSI' in Catalan) who wished to get their coronavirus jabs, few imagined just how difficult it would be, months later, to obtain an EU vaccination certificate.
In early June, and after receiving around 5,700 requests, authorities closed the registry, calling on people who wanted to get vaccinated to apply for health cards or to ask at their local CAP primary care centers instead.
Anyone registered in their local 'padró' census can request public health coverage, although certain foreigners, such as those who do not have social security numbers and who are not considered to be low-income, are only be entitled to basic care, although it does include both Covid-19 treatment and vaccinations.
Once they are assigned a CIP - the number usually found on health cards - they can book vaccination appointments and request access to the La Meva Salut website from which EU Covid certificates can be downloaded. Spain's Ministry of Health can also issue them for those with the Spanish government's digital certificate signature software. Easy, right? Not quite.
For one, many of the so-called 'displaced people' who were able to get vaccinated were only given 'justificant vacunal' documents proving they had indeed had their Covid-19 shots, but not the EU certificate.
Others were given provisional CIP numbers that allowed them to get their shots and the 'justificant vacunal', but have not been able to sign up for La Meva Salut with them and are yet to be provided with clear-cut information on how to obtain the certificate for travel or access to restaurants and cinemas in multiple EU countries.
Cian: persistence pays off
Cian, from Ireland, falls into the first category - however, although he registered as a 'displaced person', he tells us that nobody got in touch with him with an appointment. He got vaccinated after getting one through his local CAP in Barcelona instead. But when he requested his EU certificate, he was met with obstacle after obstacle.
The CAP was initially unable to issue the document. When he tried to obtain it via Spain's Ministry of Health, he was told that the ministry had not received his vaccination data and could not issue an EU certificate for him - even after Catalan authorities claimed that the data-sharing issues users had been experiencing had been resolved.
In the end, and after much persistence in the form of emails and calls to both Spanish and Catalan health authorities, as well as multiple visits to his CAP's information desk, Cian was successfully able to get his certificate.
"The eventual solution seems to have been that an IT professional at CatSalut manually put me into the system," he explains. "This is not a scalable solution. It probably only happened as I made too much noise."
Catalan News has been in touch with this employee and has been able to put others in the same situation as Cian in contact with them.
Guillermo: no EU certificate in sight
Guillermo, from Colombia, received a single dose of the Johnson&Johnson vaccine in July.
"As soon as my vaccination was completed, I requested the EU Covid certificate from the people at the vaccination center, but I was told that I should go to the CAP," he says. "After going there for three different days and requesting it, I began to understand that it was not possible for them to give it to me and that the only way to get it is through Spain's Ministry of Health."
This, however, did not work either: "After attempting to obtain the certificate 13 different times and initiating 12 different issue reports with the Ministry of Health over the phone and mail, it was clear that the Ministry had no record of my vaccination."
Guillermo, who is moving to the Czech Republic at the end of the month, has also reported this problem to the Catalan health department. Because the country requires proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test "to do pretty much anything and go anywhere, much like in France," Guillermo worries that not obtaining a certificate now could have more serious repercussions for him as time passes.
I got vaccinated but still don't have my EU certificate. What should I do?
One option, for those who have a Spanish digital certificate, would be to try to request it through the Spanish Health Ministry - though, of course, the above stories indicate this does not always work.
A CatSalut employee that Catalan News was able to speak with told us that people in this situation should get in touch with their local CAPs, call the 061 hotline, or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In theory, their information should be taken down and provided to the people in charge of going through these cases one by one and finding a solution to them. From readers' emails, however, we have been able to gather that this does not always happen, and we have also been told that due to the high volume of issues being handled at the moment, this could take longer than usual to be resolved.
"We have administered 10 million doses in Catalonia," the same CatSalut source told us. "People in this situation represent a small fraction of the total, and we still have all the other vaccination-related administrative issues we need to deal with."
Our best advice at the moment, unfortunately, is to keep on insisting.