We all have passed a rather dark year. What started – in the eyes of many – as just another but a little more serious flu that would pass in a couple of months, turned into a full-blast pandemic. Hardly anyone has ever lived anything remotely like this. Even when the first wave hit us all full-blast, we still thought it would pass in a couple of months and things would go back to normal by September. We now know it didn’t. Even now that people start to get vaccinated, things don’t get better. For some they are even getting worse with yet more bans and restrictions and many start wondering. Can we get the covid vaccine in Madeira?
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Even though we find life on our little island still relatively relaxed, we do have a serious curfew. And travel to many countries has been made virtually impossible. (You can find all restrictions in my article here.)
People get tired of covid measures. Even we, though living in a small corner of paradise, are fed up and want to get out. No wonder we are very anxious to get a vaccine against covid-19. It’s not even that we are very worried that we might catch corona. We still feel very safe here in Madeira. Especially as we live in a rural area and we can easily avoid large concentrations of people. But we want all these bans and restrictions removed as soon as possible. We want to travel again and see our friends and family overseas after such a long time.
The main question that worried us is if we, as foreign citizens and unofficial residents can get the vaccine here. Let me explain our personal situation. When we bought our house here over ten years ago, we fully intended to remain residents of the Netherlands. And for a number of good reasons. That was not a problem, as we spent half of our time sailing from our Dutch base. We only spend the winter months in our Madeira house. When the pandemic dragged on, a dear friend of ours, who is an experienced nurse, told us to get the flu jab. If we would get covid, our bodies would not have to fight a flu infection on top of it.
When we went to our local ‘centro de saúde’, the receptionist checked. She saw that we were already inscribed in the Sesaram (health organisation of Madeira) system. So, we could easily make the appointment for the flu jab. We got our jab a couple of days later. The nurse wanted us to stay for half an hour after the jab. Just to make sure we didn’t have an allergic reaction. But she permitted us to cross the street and wait there. I think she did realise that we’d wait at our favourite Poncha place Bar Formiga. It’s just across from the Centro de Saúde.
covid vaccine, can we get it?
When slowly the vaccination against covid-19 started on the island, we tried to find out if we were entitled to it, being non-residents. Normally, we would have travelled to the Netherlands and get the vaccine there later this spring, but as things are looking now, the Dutch government has practically blocked us from entering the country. There are possibilities to get there, but you need several expensive tests, at your own expense of course. The tests lose their validity if your flight is seriously delayed, not uncommon in Madeira. Simply too expensive and too risky timewise.
As long as Madeira is still on the ‘red list’ we will have to stay put. Time to find out if we can get the vaccine here. The first stop is, obviously, the covidmadeira.pt website. Annoyingly, the chapter about who can receive the vaccine contradicts itself. In one sentence it says that the vaccine is for residents, in another instance it says the vaccine is for anyone on Portuguese territory.
Time to go back to the Centro de Saúde. The lady at reception knows us well by now, and she said that, according to her, we should automatically get a phone call from Sesaram to invite us to get the vaccine. It all sounded too good to be true.
numero de utente
When I examined the covidmadeira.pt site again, I found that you need to have a ‘numero de utente’, the user number, of the health system. With that number, you can get the vaccine. As I know we may not quite answer the requirements to get the vaccine, I didn’t want to rock the boat too much, so we waited until we saw the receptionist at Bar Formiga. I casually told her I would go and see her to get our ‘numero de utente’ sometime this week. Anytime, she answered.
But the next morning, she called us. She said that we have no numero de utente because we aren’t residents in Madeira. We belong to the população flutuante’, the‘fluctuating population’ of our village. Still, she said we could get the vaccine if we had a fiscal number here, which we do. So we went to see her, handed our fiscal cards plus a declaration from the taxman stating our fiscal address in Fajã da Ovelha. She then called her boss who said this should do the trick. We will have to wait and see, and when our category is up for vaccination, we should get a phone call.
If you have a permanent residence here in Madeira, you are all set. You do need to check your inscription at the Centro de Saúde and make sure you are given the numero de utente. When you have that, you should be fine. You can check your information with this number, which is wise, as they may either contact you by text message, email or phone and you want to make sure that the information they entered is correct. Go to https://www.sesaram.pt/portaldoutente/ and register, using the user number and check if everything is correct. If that is the case, you will just have to wait until it’s your turn.
As opposed to official residents, we find ourselves in a grey area. We are EU citizens, which does help, but I can imagine that many find themselves in a similar situation because of travel restrictions and bans. The best you can do is go to your local health centre and check if they have your details. If you have your own accommodation here, you may consider applying for residence, but that depends on many of your personal circumstances. Once you are a resident, you can get your user number of the Sesaram which automatically entitles you to be vaccinated. If you are not and/or cannot be a resident, try to improvise using your NIF number. If all else fails, you can try to get help from your national embassy or, if there is one here, the consulate.
good news, update on April 2nd, 2021
It seems to have dawned on the Portuguese government that not vaccinating a group of people is counterproductive.
It concerns those who may not have an official residency status but who do reside in Portugal and may therefore pose a danger if they remain unvaccinated. Like us, for instance. Therefore, a decision has been announced – thanks to Berendina and Maurice for bringing this to our attention, it turns out to be first published by Mr. Rob Kean who informed Mrs Tig James of the Facebook Group ‘British in Portugal’ – that anyone who stays in Portugal for any reason is eligible to be vaccinated. For this purpose, a form has been put online where you can apply without the ‘numero de utente’ that some find difficult if not impossible to get.
I printed the form and added the meaning of the Portuguese terms in English. So where you have to select ‘UK’ you look for ‘Reino Unido de Grã Bretanha etc.’ Germans look for Alemanha and the Dutch look for Países Baixos. Anyway, here is the link to the online form. If you have finished filling out the form and you click on ‘sumbeter’, it can happen that a pink bar appears at the top of the form. Then you have not filled out something, or – and this happened to both Noud and me – the type of ID that you had clicked on disappeared when typing the number. Select it again. You’ll get an on-screen message when your form has been submitted successfully.
If you prefer to see the image full-screen to decipher my handwriting, then this the link.
For now, we are patiently waiting, thank heavens for a comfortable house here, and hope for the best. As soon as we have news about our vaccination we will add the information here. Meanwhile, stay safe and stay negative. And hold on!
Update April 21, 2021: YES: got the first jab!
Over the moon to tell you that the Portuguese and Madeiran system works. Out of the blue we got a phone call from the Calheta Centro de Saúde to make our jab appointment. Read how that went here.