A technicality is preventing countless foreigners in Tuscany from securing a Covid-19 vaccine.
Despite the presence of the “Non iscritti SSN” (persons unregistered with the national health service) category on the Tuscany Region’s vaccine booking website, the system requires entry of a “codice numerico” that is proving impossible to obtain.
American students currently studying in the region, non-Europeans working for multinational companies in Tuscany and internationals still in the process of obtaining residency status are among those unable to secure a Covid-19 vaccine. What they all have in common is the lack of a tessera sanitaria (health card).
“I came over in January before the start of my program and before vaccines were widely available in the US and will be here until at least December,” writes Brenna Christine McWhorter, an art history graduate studying in Florence. “I have my permesso di soggiorno, a codice fiscale and private health insurance here in Italy, but because I don’t have an SSN number I can’t get a reservation to be vaccinated.”
Phoebe Hunt, a UK citizen with a five-year permit to stay in Italy, has given up and is returning to England to be vaccinated. “I’ve tried to get a vaccine in Italy, but it’s been a bureaucratic nightmare as a non-Italian national. So I’m flying back to the UK, which of course requires all the COVID tests on departure and arrival both ways, but with the new Green Pass rules being announced in Italy there doesn’t seem to be much choice.”
Some non-Italians succeeded in obtaining a vaccine early on in the process, however. “We were fortunate to receive vaccines without having to show the health card as soon as the process was opened to the over-70s by booking online and displaying a form of ID at the vaccine hub,” commented Stephen and Liz Jenkins, retirees who share their time between Tuscany and the UK.
With the Delta variant on the rise, the pressure is on to secure the vaccine as quickly as possible. Added to this is the forthcoming introduction of Green Pass restrictions on August 6, when access to museums, events and even eating indoors will be only allowed to people who have been vaccinated with at least one dose, have tested negative in the previous 48 hours or have recovered from Covid-19 in the last six months. (A separate matter still to be clarified by the Italian government is how non-Europeans will prove their vaccination status this summer. The assumption is that fully vaccinated Americans, who have been allowed to return to Italy for tourism purposes since June 21, will be able to display their CDC cards, the same requirement for entry into the country, although the new legislation does not specifically state the measures applicable to non-Italian visitors.)
The authorities are certainly aware of the issue and one region has already found a solution. On Monday, July 26, the Lombardy Region is introducing a call centre to enable foreigners who are currently unregistered with the national health service to book vaccines.
To date, Tuscany has fully vaccinated over 1.5 million people out of a total resident population of 3.7 million.