Society 17/03/2021

When will the homeless be vaccinated?

Arrels foundation submitted a list of 300 people requesting the doses to be administered, but has received no response from the Generalitat

2 min
A homeless man in Plaça Catalunya during the confinement MARC ROVIRA

BarcelonaThere is concern among NGOs about whether vaccination will be given to groups that do not have a health card (TSI), the tool that gives access to the vaccine against covid. For months, organizations that defend the rights of vulnerable groups excluded from the municipal rolls - migrants in an irregular situation, those living on the street or without a fixed address - demand to know if the Department of Health plans to offer an exceptional way to administer the doses, because although -in theory- health has a universal coverage, in practice it is not the case. The Secretary of Public Health, Josep Maria Argimon, has assured this Tuesday that "a priori" there will be "no problem", but has ignored that by law there are still groups of population outside the public coverage, and has remarked that his team is already in talks with city councils, which is the administration that has the duty to register anyone living in the municipality, regardless of the type of housing and administrative status. There are many councils that do not do so, but the Generalitat's Office of Civil and Political Rights insists that the Catalan vaccination programme is linked to the IST.

The Arrels foundation, one of Barcelona's leaders in providing assistance to the homeless, handed over a list of 300 people it cares for on the streets or in shared flats and residences to the Health Department a few days ago, asking for them to be included in the lists to be vaccinated, with the commitment to ensure that they would be available for a second dose. So far, there has been no response, explains the organisation's director, Ferran Buquets, who regrets that the department has not agreed to treat them as a priority group, given that many suffer from chronic illnesses and are in a vulnerable situation.  

The Catalan Ombudsman's office is also "awaiting" information from the Health Department to see how to solve the void left by the "obstacles" that Catalan local councils create for those who do not have a residence permit or a fixed address, which, in his opinion, means using the municipal census as a tool for "segregation, exclusion and social control".

The municipal register is the gateway to basic rights such as health coverage, through the TSI, or school enrolment for underage. The Local Regime Law requires registration and the judicial order expressly establishes that municipalities cannot refuse petitions based on assessments of the condition of dwelling. 

Argimon insisted, however, that everyone will be vaccinated due to the "universalisation" of healthcare, without going into further details. Even so, the truth is that the socialist reform of 2018, which corrected the decree of Mariano Rajoy's government that denied IST to undocumented immigrants, did not provide full coverage and leaves some groups without care. This is the case of people over 65 years of age who have arrived in Spain through a family reunification process for their children who do have legal residence, who are obliged to take out private health insurance, or immigrants with less than three months' residence.