Portugal speeds up immigrants’ access to vaccines, but thousands remain outside the health system – Ora Pois

After several reports of foreigners prevented from being vaccinated against Covid-19 due to the lack of a registration number in the public health system, Portugal has called for the vaccination, in recent days, about 7,000 immigrants in this region. situation.

They were the first of a group of about 30,000 people who signed up for a special government platform, launched in March, for those who do not have the so-called user number: the code of identification of citizens of the national health system, Portuguese SUS.

The lack of user numbers has been the main obstacle to immigrants’ access to vaccines and full use of the public health system.

While those registered with the NHS can self-program for the vaccine or, in some cases, go directly to the vaccination center, those who register through the special platform must wait for contact from health authorities.

For at least 23,000 people registered, this has yet to happen.

On the verge of turning 91 and in a regular situation in Portugal, the Brazilian Julia Jannibelli was in this situation.

This Monday morning (5), she was again refused access to the immunizing agent, after more than an hour of waiting (and many documents presented) in a vaccination center in the Cascais region. .

After much insistence from the family to the authorities, the elderly woman finally managed to schedule the vaccination.

The Brazilian Julia Jannibelli, 90, at the vaccination center this Monday (5). She cannot be vaccinated for lack of a patient number | Photo: Personal Archives

Ivy Borges, granddaughter of the pensioner, says she took her grandmother, for a month and a half, to several health facilities and vaccination centers, always in vain.

“I have lived in Portugal for almost ten years. My mom came here in October of last year and she brought my grandma. My mother is an Italian citizen, like me, and she went through her family reunification process. But the interview at SEF [ órgão de imigração] it was just two days before the last lockdown. A document was missing and the process was not completed until the SEF reopened. My grandmother is legalized, has the correct papers, but the residence permit has not yet arrived, ”he explains.

“Then the pushing game started. I went to the health center and they said I had to go to the vaccination center. At the vaccination center, they said it was at the health center. She’s almost a month old: every week we take her somewhere, ”he describes.

“We were told to complete this registration on the Internet [para quem não tem número de utente]. I have filled it, I think 15 times and so far, nothing ”, he adds.

The issuance of the user number is in charge of the local health centers, which check the documents of foreigners and assign the respective code to each.

There is no standardized procedure for this process, and the granting of registration ends up varying between units, plunging many immigrants into a bureaucratic maze: they are entitled to receive the immunizing agent, but not are not able to carry out prior programming, a mandatory step in most cases in Portugal.

This is what is happening with gaucho student Wagner Cardoso, 31. He and his partner moved to Lisbon in September 2020 for a master’s degree in the Portuguese capital.

Even with the residence permit and up-to-date documents, they cannot get the user number.

“I’ve been there before, I’ve called before, I’ve already sent an e-mail. I’ve had no answer for months, ”he says.

“I have more and more apprehension. We do not know if the virus, through these mutations, becomes more dangerous for the youngest. My girlfriend lost a 28 year old to illness. We stay more and more at home. We are concerned about this wave of infections in Lisbon, ”he said.

Even legalized from day one, student Wagner Cardoso has been trying for months to get a user number | Photo: Personal Archives

The situation, already complicated for those who have regularized papers, is even more problematic for those who are in an irregular situation or in the process of regularization.

At the start of the pandemic, the country promoted temporary regularization of foreigners with pending requests from the Foreigners and Borders Service. The measure, of a humanitarian nature, was taken precisely to guarantee access to health care and vaccines under the same conditions as a Portuguese citizen.

Around 223,000 foreigners have benefited – data by country has yet to be released, but Brazilians have been the nationality most affected.

According to the rules defined, all these people are now entitled to registration in the health system. Many foreigners, however, report a series of obstacles in health facilities.

Complaints in immigrant aid associations have also skyrocketed.

In a statement, the Ministry of the Presidency said the country is working to ensure access to the vaccine for all.

“We are currently working to ensure contact by health authorities to all citizens who have registered on the platform, with a view to quickly scheduling their vaccination and assigning the temporary user number in cases where this is necessary.”

“In this sense, the platform is an additional resource and does not replace the existing processes for assigning the user number of the national health service, in particular via the request in health centers,” he adds.

According to the file, more than 56,000 user numbers were issued to foreigners in 2020 and another 33,000 in 2021.

So far, around 57.8% of the population of Portugal have received at least one dose of the immunizing agent, and 35.11% have been fully vaccinated.

Until last week, 135,000 foreign citizens of 195 nationalities had been vaccinated. Around 49,000 Brazilians have already been vaccinated in the country.

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