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Sharon Clarkson

Medical Insurance Nurse

If you’re an expat living and working in a foreign country, are you eligible for a coronavirus vaccine? And if not, can you return to your home country for a jab? Can you get a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in another country? To answer these questions, we take a look at some of the more successful COVID-19 vaccination programmes around the world, including UK vaccine programme overseas. But first, a quick note to say that we are an expat health insurance company and we don’t actually help expats with getting COVID-19 vaccinations or any other vaccinations.

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How can I get a COVID vaccine as an expat overseas in another country?

COVID-19 vaccination programmes tend to be run by national governments or local health authorities. Most countries run their own vaccination programme, with a clear order of priority for different age groups, health conditions, and occupations, such as health workers. It’s a little different in Europe, where the EU runs the COVID vaccination programme for its member states. But wherever they’re available, the authorities are providing vaccines for  free, with the most vulnerable vaccinated first.

As an expat, you should be able to get a coronavirus vaccine in the country where you live. When you will receive your invitation depends on your position in the order of priority. You need to check if you can get a second dose in a country different from your country of residence. Some locations, such as Dubai, are offering free coronavirus vaccinations to expats who have a residency visa and have come to work remotely in the country.

Can foreigners and overseas visitors get a vaccine in the UK?

Overseas visitors to England, including anyone living in the UK without permission, will not be charged for coronavirus (COVID-19) testing, treatment and vaccination.

Do I have to be a resident to be eligible for a COVID vaccine?

Whether you’re an official resident may also have an impact, particularly for Britons living in the EU post-Brexit. If in doubt, a relocation expert can advise on whether you need to be a resident to have access to healthcare, including the COVID vaccination.

Should I return to my home country for a COVID-19 vaccine?

Many governments are discouraging travel, so expats will probably need to wait for their COVID-19 vaccine appointment in their country of residence. Any health insurance you have will not necessarily cover you for having vaccines elsewhere, but as we’ve pointed out, authorities are not currently demanding payment for vaccines. However, according to news reports, some expats around the world are planning to return home for a coronavirus vaccination. For example, when Israel was leading the way in terms of its vaccination programme, some Israeli nationals considered flying home for their COVID vaccine to avoid waiting longer in their current country of residence. There are also news expats in Kuwait (they make up 70 percent of the population) struggle to get COVID-19 vaccines in the country because citizens get more priority.

Can I get a first dose abroad?

Anybody aged 18 or over in the UK is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination for free, regardless of their nationality or immigration status. The COVID-19 vaccination in the UK is being offered free of charge to everyone aged 18 or over at local sites run by GPs or community pharmacies, at larger vaccination centres and in some hospitals.

If you are going to get a first dose abroad in another country (not in the UK), you need to check in first with their healthcare services.

For those who are due to move abroad in the coming weeks or months, it might be best to delay getting vaccinated until settled overseas. It is always best to speak to your GP and explain your unique circumstances and see if anything can be changed to help your circumstances. For examples, there are expats in Kuwait, who make up 70 percent of the population, struggle to get COVID-19 vaccines in the country because citizens get more priority. Similarly, those living in post-Brexit Europe could face differing rules. People who are not legal residents or citizens might be impacted. This depends on the rules and regulations of the country they are residents in.

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Can I get my second vaccine dose abroad?

Most of the approved COVID vaccines are dispensed in two doses. For some expats this may mean getting your first dose in one country, moving abroad and needing your next dose overseas (in a different country). Whilst, in theory, it’s fine to get your second dose in another country where you are resident, vaccine schedules still vary wildly from one country to the next. This means you might not be able to get your second dose of the vaccine at the appropriate interval. It’s, therefore, best to speak to your vaccination centre or GP about your individual circumstances. If for instance you are only on a temporary assignment and are freely able to return home (safely) then it may be best to continue with the vaccination schedule in your home country. Conversely if you’re going to be abroad for a longer period of time, you may want to consider getting both vaccine doses in your new country of residence.

How can I bring my second dose forward?

It depends on the country of your first and second doses of vaccine. Beat in mind your second dose should be the same type as your first.

In England, the NHS would contact people to bring forward their appointments. You can currently get the 2nd dose 8 to 12 weeks after getting your 1st dose. You can also rearrange an appointment yourself. You can do this online at NHS website, or by calling 119. There are also walk-in jab sites available, which you can find by entering your postcode.

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What about the COVID vaccine for US citizens living abroad?

The US government isn’t providing COVID-19 vaccinations to US citizens living overseas, so access to the vaccine will depend on the rules of the country you’re in.

If you’re a US citizen living in the UK, the vaccine is free on the NHS. You do not require an NHS number or GP registration to receive the COVID-19 vaccination and should not be denied vaccination on this basis. Individuals who do not have an NHS number or are not registered with a GP are still entitled to free COVID-19 vaccinations.

Can British expats return to the UK for their COVD-19 vaccination? UK vaccine programme overseas

The UK government is advising British expats, some of whom are perhaps hoping to return to the UK for a coronavirus vaccine, to wait and receive the jab in their country of residence. The UK government hopes to avoid unnecessary international travel and place additional strain on the UK’s National Health Service.

If you’re an expat, however, and you’ve decided to return to the UK permanently, you’ll be eligible for the COVID vaccination. When you actually have the jab will be according to where you are on the priority list. To make sure you’re on the list, re-register with a local GP.

Anyone who is returning to live in the UK from abroad will be eligible for the vaccine in line with the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) priority list. Britons living overseas should obtain the vaccine in their country of residence. They cannot arrange a vaccine in the UK from overseas.
spokesperson for the UK Department of Health told

UK vaccination programme overseas

According to the UK government, wherever possible British citizens should aim to be vaccinated in their country of residence. If you live overseas you should find out about COVID-19 vaccines available locally, and contact your healthcare provider for further advice.

If you are considering a vaccination for somebody under 16 years old, you may wish to read the UK Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) statement on vaccinating children and young people aged 12 to 17 years, and seek medical advice from your local healthcare provider.

Local authorities where you live should provide information about COVID-19 vaccines used in the national vaccination programme, including their regulatory status.

COVID-19 vaccines if you live abroad: is there a UK vaccine programme for British expats overseas?

Since 19th July, people who have been double-jabbed in the UK have not had to isolate when arriving from amber list countries, but all other travellers vaccinated elsewhere are required to quarantine for 10 days. From 1st August, double-vaccinated expats are free to travel to the UK, as the Government now recognises foreign jabs.

The first passengers have been arriving in the UK after rules changed to allow people fully vaccinated in the US and EU to avoid quarantine. The change affects those arriving from countries on the UK’s amber list – except France. So, if you are a UK resident or a UK citizen vaccinated abroad, it is now easier for you to come back to the UK as a British expat. The UK government said the change would help to reunite family and friends whose loved ones live abroad.

Vaccinated British expats arriving in the UK will still need to take either a lateral flow or PCR test pre-departure, and a PCR test on the second day after they arrive. Under-18s will be exempt from isolation, and some will not have to test, depending on their age.

Will expats need COVID passports to move and travel abroad?
Find out more here

Additionally, the UK government has already said it was planning to scrap the need to quarantine for those who are double-jabbed and returning from amber countries, however, as of 19 August, the details are still being confirmed.

You can read the latest information on expats and covid passports here.

Is there a UK vaccine programme overseas?

From 28 July, the UK will begin delivering 9 million COVID-19 vaccines around the world, including to Indonesia, Jamaica and Kenya, to help tackle the pandemic, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced.

Five million doses are being offered to COVAX, the scheme to ensure equitable, global access to COVID-19 vaccines. COVAX will urgently distribute them to lower-income countries via an equitable allocation system which prioritises delivering vaccines to people who most need them. Another 4 million doses will be shared directly with countries in need.

Indonesia will receive 600,000 doses, 300,000 will be sent to Jamaica and 817,000 are to be transported to Kenya, among other countries.

The UK is donating the University of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, made by Oxford Biomedica in Oxford and packaged in Wrexham, North Wales.

COVID-19 vaccines for expats in different countries

Country Are expats and foreigners eligible for a vaccine? What vaccines are available? Is a COVID vaccine free of charge?
Spain Yes, the entire population is eligible for vaccines. Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Vaccines are free for everyone in Spain.
Ireland Yes, the entire population from 18 years old is now eligible for vaccines. Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca, Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) Vaccines are free for everyone in Ireland.
Italy Yes, the entire population is eligible for vaccines. Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca Vaccines are free for everyone in Italy.
France Yes, the entire population is eligible for vaccines. Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca Vaccines are free for everyone in France.
Taiwan Available to priority groups first. Moderna Vaccines are free for everyone.
Germany Yes. From June 7th onwards, the entire population is eligible for vaccines. AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi-GSK,Curevac, Biontech, Pfizer, Moderna Vaccines are free for citizens and residents in Germany.
Canada Available to priority groups first. Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD, Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) Vaccines are free, including to those who aren’t citizens (foreigners and expats).
South Korea Available to priority groups first. AstraZeneca, Pfizer Vaccines are free, including to those who aren’t citizens (foreigners and expats).
Thailand Yes, the entire population is eligible for vaccines. Sinovac, AstraZeneca. Pfizer, Moderna, Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) are expected. Vaccines are free, including to those who aren’t citizens (foreigners and expats).

If you are an expat in Indonesia, you can get vaccinated based on the official vaccination programme that started in January 2021. There are four stages in the programme, so you need to check with your local medical practice when it is your turn as it will depend on the region you are.

COVID-19 vaccine boosters: is there going to be a third dose?

In the UK, third doses (or booster vaccines) are to be offered to 32 million Britons starting early September 2021 with up to 2,000 pharmacies set to deliver the programme. The decision to go ahead with a third shot was made by the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). The two main arguments to support giving a third dose are that the effectiveness of the first two jabs falls over time and that there’s a need to take new vaccines to deal with viral variants, such as the delta variant. In September 2021, More than four out of five UK adults have now had two jabs but reported daily Covid cases remain high. Meanwhile, it’s been confirmed that millions of people will get booster vaccines – while children aged 12-15 will be offered single doses.

A total of 30 million people across the UK will eventually qualify for a third booster vaccine because they are in one of the nine priority groups most at risk from Covid. Only those who received their second dose at least six months ago are being asked to come forward. Latest data from the NHS shows 3.7 million people in England have been given a third jab under the programme, offering them the fullest protection against the virus this winter.

Israel has been the first country so far that has started to offer a third jab to its vulnerable groups of people. The third dose is unlikely to halt the rise in cases but is expected to reduce the risk of serious COVID-19 illness among the elderly population.

In the US, the US Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve third dose.

The following charts show the number of booster doses administered. Booster doses are doses administered beyond those prescribed by the original vaccination protocol — for example, a third dose of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, or a second dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Which country has the best COVID-19 vaccination programme?

The countries which had vaccinated the most people against COVID include:

  1. Canada
  2. United Kingdom
  3. Spain
  4. Italy
  5. Germany

Within Europe, the countries that had vaccinated the most people (per capita) against COVID-19 (22 July 2021 with latest available data) were:

  1. Malta
  2. Iceland
  3. United Kingdom
  4. Denmark
  5. Belgium
  6. Spain

So far, the EU has secured access to 4.4 billion doses of vaccine, while COVAX, global initiative aimed at ensuring equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, has received €2.2 billion from the European Commission and EU countries to deliver 12 million doses of the vaccine to lower-income countries.

Which countries have the best healthcare system in the world?
Check the top countries ranked here

At the beginning of April 2021 Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory that borders Spain, became one of the first places in the world to inoculate most of its adult population.

As of July 2021, more than 50% of the total population in the USA have received at least one dose of one of the three COVID-19 vaccines that have been granted emergency use authorisation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Which is the best COVID-19 vaccine?

The vaccines approved for use have met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness set out by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Medical experts do not recommend one vaccine over another as there is not yet enough data about the impact of mixing two vaccines.

However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has received a dose of Moderna as her second shot of coronavirus vaccine having had Oxford-AstraZeneca as her first. The 66-year-old leader was vaccinated a few days ago after getting a dose of AstraZeneca in April, BBC reports.

How safe is the COVID-19 vaccine?

Despite the fact that all the approved vaccines have met rigorous safety standards, as of 7 April, under-30s in the UK are to be offered an alternative Covid vaccine to the AstraZeneca jab due to evidence linking it to rare blood clots.

Meanwhile, the EU’s medicines regulator says unusual blood clots should be listed as a possible very rare side effect of the AstraZeneca jab, but that the benefits outweighed the risks. Some European countries have restricted the vaccine’s use altogether.

The World Health Organization said the link between the vaccine and blood clots was “plausible” but not confirmed, adding that the clotting incidents were “very rare” among nearly 200 million people who have received the jab worldwide.

The 1st dose of the COVID-19 vaccine should give you good protection from coronavirus from 3 or 4 weeks after you’ve had it. But you need to have the 2 doses of the vaccine to give you longer-lasting protection.

There is a chance you might still get or spread coronavirus even if you have the vaccine.

Why are vaccines important for you as an expat?

Vaccines have long been important for preventing serious and potentially deadly diseases. They are the best way to protect yourself, your children and people in your community. As an expat, vaccinations are additionally important because you may need protection against diseases of the type that you have not encountered before. Whether you are up to date with all the required vaccinations may also affect your health insurance and access to healthcare.

Being double vaccinated offers the best protection against the Delta variant, first identified in India and now dominant in the UK, according to a new study.

When thinking about becoming an expat, you should research the vaccination programme in your destination country as this may vary from the one you live under at home. Expats with children, or who are pregnant will need to consider any variations between vaccines available and/or required.

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Does being vaccinated help with travel and returning to the UK as an expat?

Yes, being vaccinated facilitates freedom to travel if you need to see your family or go abroad for work. You may have also heard that several countries, including all EU bloc, have already introduced Covid vaccine passports.

Can you still spread COVID-19 if vaccinated?

Right now, health experts know that the vaccines authorised in the United States, United Kingdom and other countries globally are effective at reducing the chance of infection and drastically reducing the severity of the virus. However, it’s unclear if a vaccinated person can still transmit the virus to other people. There is not enough data yet.

Can you return to work if you have not been vaccinated?

Covid vaccination is not mandatory in the UK for most industries, however, depending on your country of residence, your employer may insist on you getting the jab before return to your workplace. Vaccinations will be compulsory for staff at care homes in England, and may be extended to include more NHS staff. Some private companies have also said their staff must be vaccinated.

Being fully vaccinated means that you don’t have to self-isolate after visiting amber list countries. Fully vaccinated people across the UK also no longer have to self-isolate if a contact tests positive for Covid (as long as they themselves test negative).

Read more about how you can plan your return to work as an expat after COVID-19.

Do you have to isolate if you are vaccinated? Who has to self-isolate?

If you are “pinged” by the NHS Covid app you’re advised – but not legally obliged – to self-isolate.

Some critical workers won’t have to self-isolate if they are contacted by NHS Test and Trace. Employers have said they are struggling because of the number of people being contacted – almost 690,000 in the week ending 21 July.

The exemptions end on 16 August, when all fully vaccinated people are exempt.

Should I get tested for Covid if I have been vaccinated?

If you’ve had the full course of any COVID vaccination and you are aware you have come across someone with COVID-19 symptoms, it could be beneficial to have a test, even if you don’t have symptoms. And if you have cold symptoms or any other signs of COVID-19 infection, experts agree you should be tested.

All current COVID-19 vaccines are given by injection into the upper arm. The UK has currently been administering two vaccines; one produced by Pfizer and the other Oxford-AstraZeneca. These vaccines are given in 2 doses with the 2nd dose being offered anywhere between 3-12 weeks after the first.

The UK has ordered 8 different vaccines in total and has most recently approved the use of the Moderna vaccine. The rollout for this jab is starting imminently and the second dose will be offered up to 28 days after the first.

If like the USA, the UK also receives approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine (of which they have ordered 30 million doses), this vaccine will only require one jab.

There has been a trend of people heading to certain countries such as US to get vaccinated.

At the beginning of 2021, when countries worldwide started their vaccination programmes, every government was doing their best to secure enough vaccine doses to support at least the most vulnerable.

Currently the number of those vaccinated continuously grew. For example, nearly 50% of US residents are fully vaccinated but the rates are much lower in many countries. So some tourism destinations started to offer vaccines to the non-residents who travel specifically to get jabbed. Some of these countries are:

  1. USA (New York, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Louisiana and Texas)
  2. The Maldives
  3. Russia
  4. UAE (Abu Dhabi)
  5. Bali

England’s chief midwife recently urged pregnant women to get the vaccine.

The Delta variant is causing more serious illness from Covid which means unvaccinated pregnant women and their babies are at risk.

A very small number of people have experienced a severe allergic reaction after the Pfizer vaccine.

You should discuss any serious allergies with your healthcare professional before being vaccinated.

Most people will not be affected in any way, although side-effects with all vaccines are possible.

With some health insurance plans, such as our Silver and Gold plans, you may be covered for a COVID vaccination under your well-being benefit. However, you’re unlikely to have to pay for the vaccine at the point of delivery. Find out more about COVID-19 and private medical insurance.

As of the 9th April everyone in England became eligible for free lateral flow tests (also referred to as rapid tests) regardless of whether or not you have COVID-19 symptoms.

The UK government is encouraging the public to do these tests twice a week as part of their plans to open the country up again. They’re free and you get a result 30 minutes after taking the test. More information on how to get it is available on the NHS website

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released guidelines for people who’ve been newly vaccinated, but while they recommend avoiding OTC pain meds (like ibuprofen and Tylenol) before the vaccine—and talking to your doctor about taking the meds to relieve any discomfort after the vaccine)—there’s no mention of alcohol.

In the UK, experts recently advised people to avoid drinking alcohol in the days leading up to and after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

You really need to listen to your body on this one. Sure, in most cases, it’s totally OK to work out after your shot—as long as you’re feeling well enough. But some of the more common vaccine side effects might impact your exercise plans, so it’s best to be aware of those—and how you can plan your physical activity around your vaccine—to feel a good as possible.

What else do expats need to consider about healthcare?

Since Brexit, many countries in Europe require British expats to become official residents in order to access public services including healthcare. There are a number of requirements needed to become resident and not all expats will qualify.

For Britons travelling in Europe, a European Health Insurance Card is being replaced with Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) for accessing healthcare while visiting EU countries.

Position of British expats in the EU becomes increasingly opaque amid compounding influences of Brexit and COVID-19. Expats can still get the Covid vaccine.

Overseas visitors to England will not be charged for vaccination against COVID-19.

Thinking of moving abroad in 2021?

With the end of the pandemic in sight, there has never been a better time to think about starting a new life. In 2021, we have created a guide with a list of best places to live and move abroad for expats, and we have considered healthcare as one of the biggest factors when you make a move. Wherever you decide to move, just make sure you have the confidence of global health insurance. At William Russell, we have been providing worldwide health cover for 30 years, helping expats like you and their families to settle into their new homes. Speak to us today to find out more about how global health insurance could support you.

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