Foreigners with private health insurance in the Czech Republic facing uncertainties about vaccination

Foreigners who aren't part of the Czech state health insurance scheme are currently being denied vaccination against Covid-19.

Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas

Written by Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas
Published on 04.05.2021 11:18 (updated on 04.05.2021)

The Czech Republic began its vaccination program against Covid-19 in December 2020. Since then, some 3.2 million doses of vaccine have been administered and 1 million people and counting have been completely vaccinated.

Foreign nationals insured within the Czech public health insurance system or foreigners residing in the Czech Republic who are insured in another member state can also register to be vaccinated through the government's online system.

Not everyone has been able to register for vaccination in the Czech Republic. Foreigners who are not part of the state health insurance scheme are being left in the dark about how and when they can register to receive a shot.

Bárbara Weiss is a Brazilian national living in the Czech Republic since September 2020. She and her husband moved to Prague for work. Weiss’s mother Jeanette, 68, moved with the family to help look after the couple’s children.

While Weiss, who is pregnant with a third child, is happy to have her mother by her side, she said the current pandemic has left her feeling anxious about her decision to relocate Jeanette, who is still awaiting Covid vaccination, to the Czech Republic.

“I find it incomprehensible that a legal foreign resident of the Czech Republic cannot be vaccinated, while the UK and other countries are not even looking at the legal status of people,” said Weiss.

Weiss said she first attempted to register her mother, who has a Czech residence permit valid for five years and holds foreigner's insurance with PVZP (Pojišťovna VZP), for a vaccine in April, when vaccination for her age bracket opened up.

“After you put in your basic info, there is also a drop-down menu where you have to select your insurer but if you cannot complete that field you can’t go any further.”

Entrance to the Metropolitan vaccination centre against COVID-19 at Prague Congress Centre (Photo via iStock -Gabi Uhrova)
Entrance to the Metropolitan vaccination centre against COVID-19 at Prague Congress Centre (Photo via iStock - Gabi Uhrova)

She said she has spent hours and hours e-mailing and calling the Ministry of Health, her mother’s insurer, and the Brazilian Embassy. And she’s still waiting for answers.

“Next we called her GP, as I had read that GPs had a special code that allowed for registry of people in at-risk groups. He told me he couldn’t do that but that her insurance provider might have a code,” Weiss said.

Weiss also contacted Jeanette’s insurer via email. PVZP replied that it would eventually cover vaccination against Covid-19 for its clients but that it’s currently possible only for people with public health insurance to register in the public medical system.

Weiss’s campaign to get her mother vaccinated continued with multiple calls and e-mails to the Ministry of Health. When a Czech-speaking friend contacted the Covid helpline on her behalf, she was told Weiss might try to seek "private arrangements" with Jeanette's GP.

The Brazilian Embassy in Prague also offered little help, telling Weiss only that a second roll-out plan by the Czech government was “likely.”

“At this point, I’m getting both worried and upset,” Weiss told us. “My mom’s brother and cousin died of Covid and I have young children who are returning to school. With the restrictions being relaxed I’m becoming increasingly concerned for my mother's safety.”

She’s also angry. Weiss said she's in disbelief that in the era of the global economy, in a country that offers incentives to attract foreign business that her family is a victim not only of “retrograde poor politics” – but what she refers to as a serious IT problem.

“As legal residents, contributing to the local economy, paying taxes and paying into VZP, we feel like second class citizens,” she said.

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Ironically Weiss has considered traveling abroad to have her mother vaccinated in her home country of Brazil, one of the nations hardest hit by the Covid pandemic but fears that due to travel restrictions her mother would not be able to return to the Czech Republic.

She’s now considering taking Jeanette to Serbia or another country where foreigners have access to vaccines.

Weiss’s mother is not the only foreign resident still waiting on a jab. Kevin (who asked us to withhold his last name) is a 74-year-old Australian with Czech permanent residency. Like Jeanette, Kevin purchased, as a condition of his temporary residence visa, foreigner's insurance via PVZP.

Kevin, 74 cannot get vaccinated against Covid-19 because he does not have public health insurance.
Kevin, 74 cannot get vaccinated against Covid-19 because he does not have public health insurance.

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He said he tried registering multiple times when his age group came up for vaccination before he realized that the system didn’t recognize his insurance number.

When he reached out to his insurer as well as the Ministry of Health for a solution he was told by both that “the issue is subject to negotiation.”

"It is difficult to see how the general Czech population can be secured from infection by Covid-19 variants when the government deliberately excludes a significant percentage of the population from access to the vaccine even when they are fully insured," he told us.

A lawyer who has lived in the Czech Republic since 2016 Kevin said he has no plans to get the vaccine abroad as international travel is completely out of the question until he's vaccinated.

But he said that whether or not he can travel to get the vaccine elsewhere is irrelevant – he believes the situation reflects "yet another failure of public policy at the highest level." His message for the Czech government:

“I hope they will recognize that excluding people from the vaccination program carries a real risk to the public healthcare system. It’s far more cost-effective that I get vaccinated as soon as possible as statistically speaking I’ll end up in the hospital if I get Covid.”

There is one group of foreigners who don't hold Czech health insurance and will still be eligible for vaccination. Monday the government announced that foreign diplomats in the Czech Republic can now register to receive the Covid vaccine. The costs will be covered by the state.

Expats.cz reached out to the press departments of both the Health Ministry and PVZP insurance company multiple times via telephone and email. Neither responded to our request for information about when foreigners with commercial insurance will be eligible to register for Covid-19 vaccination in the Czech Republic. The PVZP website issued this statement to its clients; the health ministry's website says the issue is still being solved.