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How to Get a COVID Vaccine if You’re an Expat

Home Blog How to Get a COVID Vaccine if You’re an Expat

Sharon Clarkson

Insurance Nurse Specialist

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? To answer these questions, we take a look at some of the more successful COVID-19 vaccination programmes around the world.

How can I get a COVID vaccine as an expat?

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.

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.

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’ll need to register with a GP in order to get it. When you will be vaccinated depends where you are in the order of priority.

Does private medical insurance cover COVID vaccinations?

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.

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. Because Israel is leading the way in terms of its vaccination programme, for example, some Israeli nationals may consider 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 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. 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.

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 Express.co.uk

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

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.

Will Expats need COVID passports?
Find out more here

How are the COVID-19 vaccines given in the UK?

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.

What is a COVID-19 rapid lateral flow test?

As of the 9th April everyone in England will be 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.

Which country has the best COVID-19 vaccination programme?

Rate of COVID-19 Vaccinations (per 100 people)
Worldwide as of June 2021

Note: Total vaccinations refers to the number of doses given, not necessarily the number of people vaccinated


The countries which had vaccinated the most people against COVID per capita included:

  1. Gibraltar
  2. Israel
  3. United Arab Emirates (UAE)
  4. Cayman Islands
  5. Isle of Man
  6. Chile

Within Europe, the countries that had vaccinated the most people (per capita) against COVID-19 (1200 GMT on 4 April 2021 with latest available data) were:

  1. Gibraltar
  2. Isle of Man
  3. Serbia
  4. Hungary
  5. Iceland
  6. Estonia

So far, the EU has secured access to 2.3 billion doses of vaccine, while COVAX is on track to deliver 2 billion doses of the vaccine to lower-income countries.

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

As of April 2021, nearly 124 million people in the US — more than 37% of the total population — have received at least one dose of one of the three COVID-19 vaccines that have been granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Which COVID-19 vaccines are available in different countries?

All currently authorized and recommended COVID-19 vaccines are:

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.

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.

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.

Does being vaccinated help with travel as an expat?

Yes, being vaccinated facilitates safer travel if you need to see you family abroad or move for work. Several countries already introduced covid vaccine passport. You can read the latest information on expats and covid passports here.

Can you still spread COVID-19 if vaccinated?

Right now, health experts know that the vaccines authorized 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 do sports and exercise after getting 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.

Can you drink alcohol after getting the COVID-19 vaccine?

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.

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 Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) replaces the EHIC 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.