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Vaccinated foreigners without health cards outraged at inability to get EU certificate

Catalan authorities "working" to solve issue as Spain says it offers alternative but only for those with electronic IDs


26 July 2021 12:01 PM


Guifré Jordan | Barcelona

The process of obtaining an EU vaccination certificate in Catalonia is pretty straightforward: register in La Meva Salut site with your public health card ID number and request it. The certificate is generated automatically for those who have been vaccinated anywhere in Catalonia. 

No major issues have been reported beyond some already-solved problems for people who only needed one dose of a vaccine as they had already had Covid-19. 

Yet, a major exception to this are vaccinated foreigners without Catalan public health cards (TSI or CatSalut, as it is known in Catalonia).

And at the moment, neither Catalan nor Spanish authorities have been able to provide a solution for everyone. 

Why vaccination is possible without a health card

Let's go step by step. Is it possible to get the jab without being registered in the public health system?

Yes, it is. Or at least it was. Between April and May, the Catalan government allowed people without health cards to sign up to get their shots. This was closed on May 31 after 5,700 people had benefited from it. 

Asked by Catalan News on any alternatives from then on, the government said that the easiest way to be included in the rollout was to register in the public health system.

"As public health providers, our aim is to vaccinate everyone who lives here," public health secretary Carmen Cabezas said back then.

  • "I am feeling like a character in Kafka's novel being sent from one office to another, spending hours on the phone lines just to be passed on to someone else"

    Catalan News reader

While most people, including undocumented migrants, are entitled to full access to the public health system, higher-income foreigners who do not have Spanish Social Security numbers (for instance, because they are not working in the country and are financially self-sufficient) do not, although they may be able to apply for essential care

Cabezas has also stated that coronavirus jabs are a "basic" service, which is why residents in this situation who are registered in their local 'padró' census should "go to their nearest primary care center" to find out what can be done for them. 

Why getting a certificate is not possible for non-CatSalut holders

So, the very basics: it is possible to get a jab. But the second step, proving that you have had them with a 'Covid passport' in order to travel is where some get stuck. 

Catalan News has been in touch with a number of outraged residents, all of whom report the same situation: they have been vaccinated in Catalonia despite not being in the public health system, but are not able to request the certificate. Why? Because they are not in the system, therefore, they lack the ID number needed to sign up for La Meva Salut. The same happens to those who want a recovery certificate but cannot access the site. 

Some are told by 061 information number or the primary care center (CAP) to try to get the certificate through Spain's health system website – but they have also been unsuccessful. 

'Pure Kafka,' say affected residents 

"I am feeling like a character in Kafka's novel being sent from one office to another, spending hours on the phone lines just to be passed on to someone else," says one Catalan News reader. "Pure Kafka." 

"I am feeling grateful for getting the jab but the current issue with the certificate puts me in a highly disadvantageous position," they add. "Soon the certificate might be needed across Europe to get into restaurants and I won't be able to show proof that I was vaccinated. Not to mention the travel and costs associated with the necessary tests."

"The staff at the CAP want to help, but the system simply does not allow it," says another person who contacted us.

This resident asked for a solution via the health system online services and their reply confirms this group's inability to obtain their certificates: "We regret to inform you that at the moment, there is not any procedure for those in your situation to obtain the EU vaccination certificate. And we would not be able to tell you when it will be available." 

"This kind of defeats the purpose of the displaced persons registration in the first place," expresses another reader.

Some have been told to "go to the CAP and get a temporary card. However CAPs are not issuing temporary cards," reports someone else. 

Catalan government: 'working to resolve it' 

Earlier this week, the public health secretary, Carmen Cabezas, said in the weekly vaccination press conference that "this is a complicated issue." 

Asked by Catalan News, she also added that they are "working" to find a solution. 

"When a person has no health card ID number or has had the first dose in another country, they will experience difficulties." 

Cabezas said authorities will notify the public when the issue is fixed. 

Spanish government: Catalonia must issue certificates

In a written response to Catalan News, Spain's health ministry replied that under the current EU regulation 2021/953, "it is compulsory to issue the certificates of vaccines or diagnostic tests carried out in EU countries."

In Spain, those in charge of doing so are "regional authorities" who, according to Madrid, "have to issue the certificate to anyone that they have vaccinated and who requests one." 

"For foreigners, the means of identification to request the certificate should be the same used to get the vaccine, such as the passport."

"This means that if Catalonia has vaccinated a person, regardless of whether they are foreigners or whether they have the health card, it has to be able to issue a certificate for them."

Inability to get EU Covid passport via Spanish ministry website

The same response states that the Spanish health ministry website also offers the possibility of downloading the EU Covid passport, but only as long as the person has a valid means of electronic identification.

The most typical is cl@ve, but an ID such as NIE (ID for foreigners) is needed to register – yet, problems can occur if none of these are available. 

"This is unfair for a foreigner who has his residency in another country," says a reader. 

One of the people who got in touch managed to enter the Spanish ministry website, but got the message that follows as an answer: "We inform you that we have not found information in the health ministry's database that allows us to issue the certificate. It is possible that the regional authority has not sent your information to the ministry or that it has been dismissed because they have an error." 

After checking whether the information had been sent, Catalan authorities confirmed that it had. 

Other common issues

Another typical issue is not being able to get the digital vaccination certificate because they got the virus less than 6 months ago – and cannot get the jab –, but cannot get a recovery certificate either because they tested positive with an antigen test rather than a PCR.

Nothing can be done about this for now. They will have to wait until they are allowed to get the jab, six months after their diagnosis. 

The Catalan health department said that it has reported the issue to the Spanish health ministry several times and that it must be sorted by the EU. Although local public health systems issue European certificates, the conditions to get them are set by Brussels.

More common questions regarding vaccinations and certificates are addressed in this article.


  • People waiting in line for a Covid vaccine in Fira Barcelona (by Marina López)

  • People waiting in line for a Covid vaccine in Fira Barcelona (by Marina López)