Vickie Scullard reports on how administrative confusion between Spain and the UK over vaccination requirements for travel is causing Britons who are resident in Spain to take matters into their own hands to get home.
Brits in Spain who previously had Covid-19 have revealed how they managed to get a second vaccine for quarantine-free travel to the UK despite covid rules stating that they are not eligible for one.
This is due to the clash between the Spanish and UK governments relating to what qualifies as being “fully vaccinated”.
In Spain, if you’ve had covid-19 previously, you are only required to have one vaccine due to natural immunity from the virus itself.
But in the UK, the rules state that one dose of Pfizer, AstraZeneca or Moderna, plus natural immunity from previous infection, will not suffice.
The UK Government guidelines state that those who have previously had COVID-19 and only one dose of a 2-dose vaccine must follow the rules for unvaccinated arrivals.
This includes a 10-day quarantine and proof of purchase of a pre-departure covid test, as well as PCR tests for day two and eight.
The Madrid Metropolitan spoke to several people from the UK living across the country about their desperate attempts to get a second vaccine – some of whom have been successful, others who have not.
One Brit, 35, who lives in Madrid city centre and asked not to be named, has admitted that they “told a fib” to their doctor so that they could receive two vaccines.
“I have only recently registered at a centro salud but knew that if I disclosed that I’d had covid, they wouldn’t give me two vaccines,” they said.
“Of course I am worried that my doctor doesn’t know my full medical history, but I cannot afford to spend hundreds on tests and quarantine for 10 days every time I go back to England.”
Rachel, 45, who asked for her surname to be withheld, lives in Valencia and is desperate to fly to England to see her mother, who has late stage Alzheimer’s.
She had covid in November 2020, but she has so far been refused a second vaccine.
She said: “I want to go back to England to see my mum. At any point she could go on the end of life pathway due to her Alzheimer’s. I am so worried that she’ll die and I won’t be able to go to her funeral.
“I thought, surely I could have the second dose if I explained my situation – but no. I contacted the Embassy that said I’d have to quarantine if Ive only had one vaccine.
“I contacted my health centre and they said it was nothing to do with them. I then spoke to the centre where I got my vaccine and they said it was a government directive. But in the eyes of the Spanish Government, I am fully vaccinated.
“I am desperate to be there. It’s been almost two years since I’ve seen her face to face. We video call but that isn’t the same. She doesn’t recognise me anymore.”
She has since contacted the Embassy again and asked if she can book a single-dose vaccine (such as Janssen) when she returns to the UK with the NHS, as she is protected under the withdrawal agreement.
“It won´t help for this trip, but it will for the future,” she added.
While Rachel has so far been unable to find a centre that will offer her vax number two, in Madrid others have been more successful.
Matt, who also asked for his surname to be withheld, told us that he was rejected from WiZink but was later accepted “no questions asked” at another centre.
He said: “I went to the Wizink and explained why I needed a second one because the UK only recognises two jabs as fully vaccinated, even if you’ve had covid and one jab, which here in Spain is considered fully vaccinated. But they turned me away.
“So I tried the Wanda Stadium and they didn’t even ask anything. They just gave it to me.”
He added: “I emailed the authorities and they said they couldn’t do anything, but in my experience, if you explain why you need a second one, they’ll give it to you.”
Despite being turned away previously, a Brit who gave her name as Louisa, plans to visit the UK for Christmas and was recently given vaccine number two at Isabel Zendal.
“I just walked into the hospital and asked for the second dose of AstraZeneca,” she explained. “They asked me why I wanted it and I said to travel.
“They asked for confirmation of my flights and then they gave it to me, it was very easy.”
The Madrid Metropolitan put these claims to the Spanish health authorities, but they are yet to respond about the arbitrary nature of who gets the second jab.
The British Embassy in Spain told us that they are aware that some people have been able to get a second dose after having had COVID.
But added it is the Spanish health authorities that are responsible for the vaccination policy and rollout her in Spain, and advised British citizens to follow the UK government’s guidelines when travelling.
They said: “As you are aware, those that have had covid plus one dose of a vaccine do not count as fully vaccinated to enter the UK. Travellers should check the government´s covid-19 guidelines for the latest information.”
The UK government guidelines state: “If you were vaccinated with a two-dose vaccine (Moderna, Pfizer BioNTech, Oxford AstraZeneca, or a combination of them), you must have had both doses to be considered fully vaccinated for travel to the UK.
“This applies in all cases, even if you’ve recently recovered from COVID-19 and have natural immunity.
“Those who have had COVID-19 and have only had one dose of a 2 dose vaccine must follow the rules for unvaccinated arrivals.”