Wednesday, August 4

Reader question: Do you need a health card to get vaccinated in Italy?

Question: How is a person who does not have an Italian health card vaccinated against Covid-19? The registration website asks for a health tessera number, but I don’t have one.

The Local has received versions of this question since Italy began its vaccination campaign in late December, and it is only becoming more urgent as the program opens up to more priority groups (currently over 80 and in many regions, over 70).

Health officials have repeatedly emphasized that Covid-19 vaccines should be offered to everyone in Italy, including foreign residents. “All people who are present on Italian territory, residents with or without a residence permit, will be vaccinated,” says the Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA) in your official vaccination FAQs.

The country has the principle of making essential health care available to everyone, regardless of nationality or immigration status. That includes vaccines against potentially serious infectious diseases, like Covid-19.

So we know that foreigners have the right to get vaccinated in Italy. But in practice, it is a bit more complicated.

According to AIFA, “Valid identity document and health card (health insurance card) are necessary ”for vaccination.

Each regional health service has an online platform where residents can book an appointment for their jab, if they are in one of the categories currently being vaccinated. Most of these have a section to fill in the number of health insurance card: the health card that proves that you are affiliated with the national health service, or National Health service (SSN).


If you are enrolled in the SSN but your health card is out of date, the good news is that it may not prevent you from reserving your vaccination. Italian authorities have issued expired documents several times over the past year as the pandemic makes it difficult to renew paperwork, and The Local is aware of at least one case in which a U.S. citizen with a health insurance card I was able to reserve and receive a vaccination.

If this is your situation, try calling the vaccination hotline of your regional health service and register by phone. You may be able to identify yourself using your fiscal Code (tax code) instead of your health insurance card. Regardless, bring your expired card to your appointment.

People wait to get vaccinated at the Tor Vergata hospital in Rome. Photo: Tiziana FABI / AFP

If you do not have a health card because you are not registered with the SSN, things get complicated.

The only official AIFA guide is for “socially vulnerable people”, both Italians and foreigners, who may not have the usual documentation: according to their frequently asked questions, people in this category can show “any document (including expired ones) that indicate the identity of the person receiving the vaccine, the health card (health insurance card), the European Health Insurance Card, the STP code (foreigner temporarily present – Foreigner temporarily present) and the ENI code (European not registered – European citizen not registered) ”.

Please note that both the ENI code (for EU citizens) and the STP code (for non-EU citizens) are only for foreigners in Italy who cannot pay for their own medical treatment.

If you are in a priority category for vaccination and have one of these documents, try calling the vaccination hotline of your regional health service to explain your situation and ask if they will allow you to register. Someone else can call for you, so ask for help if you need it.


But The Local has also heard from readers who say they were flatly told by local health authorities that they could not register for vaccination without first registering for national health care, which some foreign residents may not do for a variety of complex reasons and legitimate.

What seems clear is that, with Italy struggles to get vaccines even for people who have all the red tape, the health authorities have not yet decided on a standard process for those who are not enrolled in the national health service. Until they do, some foreign residents who might otherwise be eligible will likely face delays in getting vaccinated.

The Local recently ask this question to the British Embassy in Rome, who told us: “More information on the process will be provided for those who live in Italy but do not have an Italian health care card to book a vaccine, so please continue to check the relevant Italian government websites”, including those of AIFA. guidelines, websites of regional health authorities and the vaccination site of the Ministry of Health.

We will post any new information as we get it. In the meantime, the best advice we can give is to call the regional vaccination hotline instead of trying to register online, and find out if you are eligible to enroll in Italy’s public health system (find a guide here).

Even if you’re not, you should ultimately be able to get vaccinated at one of the walk-in clinics Italy has promised to set up nationwide by when doses become more available. However, for now, vaccination in Italy remains by appointment only.

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