The never ending story: How to get a vaccine in Italy as a foreigner?

I think that so far, no one has mentioned the word “vaccine” in our United Youth -blog. One of the most talked topic this year. Some might wonder what is the situation for us volunteers while abroad and without the normal healthcare we are used to in our home countries. 

To be honest, the situation is complicated. For normal medical care, we are covered by an insurance that should provide us with the same care as the locals get. But because we have this extraordinary and rare thing, that nobody has heard before about, called Covid-19, the insurance was no guarantee of getting a vaccine. Even though we are working directly for EU, we are paid by the EU and the vaccination program is more or less, at least on the bigger scale, a commun idea and scheme drawn by the EU, they have demonstrated to be incapable of taking care of hundreds of volunteers in Italy and thousands all over Europe. There is no common policy for how to handle this kind of international situations in a way that no one gets lost in the system and that everyone, indeed everyone, would have access to the basic right regarding their health, which is the vaccine; now available for all EU citizens. 

Or maybe, is it only Italy, who is making things complicated? You probably know, we all have this love-hate relationship with Italy. There are so many amazing things to see, live, try, do, eat and the list goes on. On the other hand, well, bureaucracy does’t appear on the previous list. It is understandable that in Italy, the majority of Italians have tessera sanitaria, the national health card, and therefore can easily book for the vaccine. What is not understandable, is that the booking system is so strictly tied to the health card and that it is made almost impossible to get hold of someone, anyone, a person in charge, to help us. Of course you can get one as a foreigner as well, if you pay, but it is not that simple. Considering how many foreigners there are in Italy, over 5 million people, that represents almost 9% of the population (according to ISTAT on 1st of January 2021), I personally cannot understand how Italy intends to get the vaccination coverage ever high enough with this kind of policy. 

At this point, you have surely guessed that us volunteers, we don’t have the national health card. So the measures we took in order to try to book for the vaccine:

  • Tried to to book it online on national page, as advised
  • Tried to call at least 5 different phone numbers where every time we were told they cannot help; “Call this other number”
  • Tried to book it with a local doctor who said no one without tessera sanitaria can get a vaccine
  • Tried to book it in the farmacy, as advised on the phone
  • Tried to book it in the hospital, as advised in the farmacy and on the phone
  • Tried to book it online on a regional page, as advised on the phone, online, and in the hospital
  • I almost wrote letter to the president

Oh yes, and before thinking about the letter, I considered making a scene in front of the commissariat in order to get attention, help and assistance. At the end I judged it as a maybe not so efficient way of handling things – although it would have certainly helped for this frustration – and I renounced. I almost booked flights back to Finland, at least there I would have got the needle on my arm. But then the miracle happened. After almost a two-month endeavor (aka. open war from my part), a miracle happened.

My beloved coordinator Elisa, to whom I will always be grateful, she did it. She managed to do it: the booking. Still to this day, I don’t know what strings she pulled or what magic tricks she did, or did she actually find the weak point of the Italian system. But there it was, black on white, the date and time. I could believe my eyes, I was so amazed. And believe or not, now the long-awaited vaccine is injected between my wings. With a little bit lighter shoulders, I can now walk in the city, go to the beach, or even do my grocery shopping. Because guys, the vaccine is a good thing that protects us all: get vaccinated! 

But, if you thought that the fight is over, it ain’t. See you in the next episode…

Yours truly,
The vaccinated Finn, Laura

P.s. My love-hate relationship towards Italy hasn’t changed. Oh wait, was it a hate-love relationship…?

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