Italy says diplomats and Italians who live abroad can get vaccinated without a health card

As people outside the public health system struggle to access Covid-19 vaccines in Italy, the government has said that certain categories can book their jab despite not having all the paperwork – but only a specific few.

Italy says diplomats and Italians who live abroad can get vaccinated without a health card
A vaccination centre in Rome. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

In its first official guidance on how people who aren’t enrolled in the national health service should get vaccinated, Italy has issued an ordinance that makes exceptions for a few select groups.

Italian citizens who usually live abroad and are only in Italy temporarily will be allowed to book a shot even without the tessera sanitaria (healthcare card) that is usually required, according to the new ordinance, dated April 24th and signed by Covid-19 emergency commissioner Francesco Figliuolo.

READ ALSO: ‘We need ammunition’: Jabs for over-60s postponed as Italian regions run out of vaccines

Current and retired employees of European Union institutions or other international organizations living in Italy, as well as foreign diplomats, can also book without a health card. So can any of their dependent family members living here with them.

People in these categories will be able to register for vaccination using only their codice fiscale (tax code) or passport, cross-checked as applicable against their employer’s records or the AIRE (Registry of Italians Resident Abroad).

The usual priority order continues to apply, meaning that only people in high-risk age groups, clinically vulnerable people or people who work in schools or healthcare are currently eligible to get vaccinated.

These limited exceptions do not help others living in Italy without a tessera sanitaria, including foreign residents who have been unable to join the public health system because of bureaucratic delays or different regional rules.


People wait at a vaccination hub set up outside Rome’s Termini railway station. (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP)

While Italy has promised that everyone will be offered a vaccine regardless of nationality or immigration status, so far it has only allowed residents who are registered for public healthcare to book an appointment.

That has left residents who are outside the system, especially foreign retirees, unable to get vaccinated despite being in a high-priority category. People in this situation are still waiting to find out whether Italy will make arrangements for them to book, or whether they will have to wait months for jabs to become available on a walk-in basis.

OPINION: Bureaucratic barriers must not stop Italy vaccinating its foreign residents

The latest ordinance at least sets a precedent for booking vaccination without a health card, including allowing different government bodies to share records instead of using only tessera sanitaria databases.

To qualify for vaccination, the ordinance states, Italian nationals who don’t live in Italy must be registered on the AIRE. It is presumably aimed at Italians who have left homes overseas to wait out the pandemic in Italy.

The Local is continuing to follow this issue and will post any new updates on how to get vaccinated without a health card as they appear. Find more coverage of Italy’s vaccination campaign here.

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Former Italian PM faces investigation over Covid response

Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte is set to undergo a judicial inquiry over claims his government's response to the Covid-19 outbreak in early 2020 was too slow.

Former Italian PM faces investigation over Covid response

Prosecutors in Bergamo, the northern city that was one of the epicentres of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe, targeted Conte after wrapping up their three-year inquiry, according to media reports.

Conte, now president of the populist Five Star movement, was prime minister from 2018 to 2021 and oversaw the initial measures taken to halt the spread of what would become a global pandemic.

Investigating magistrates suspect that Conte and his government underestimated the contagiousness of Covid-19 even though available data showed that cases were spreading rapidly in Bergamo and the surrounding region.

They note that in early March 2020 the government did not create a “red zone” in two areas hit hardest by the outbreak, Nembro and Alzano Lombardo, even though security forces were ready to isolate the zone from the rest of the country.

READ ALSO: ‘Not offensive’: Italian minister defends Covid testing rule for China arrivals

Red zones had already been decreed in late February for around a dozen other nearby municipalities including Codogno, the town where the initial Covid case was reportedly found.

Conte’s health minister Roberto Speranza as well as the president of the Lombardy region, Attilio Fontana, are also under investigation, the reports said.

Bergamo prosecutors allege that according to scientific experts, earlier quarantines could have saved thousands of lives.

Conte, quoted by Il Corriere della Sera and other media outlets, said he was “unworried” by the inquiry, saying his government had acted “with the utmost commitment and responsibility during one of the most difficult moments of our republic.”

READ ALSO: Italy’s constitutional court upholds Covid vaccine mandate as fines kick in

Similar cases have been lodged against officials elsewhere, alleging that authorities failed to act quickly enough against a virus that has killed an estimated 6.8 million people worldwide since early 2020.

In January, France’s top court threw out a case against former health minister Agnes Buzyn, a trained doctor, over her allegedly “endangering the lives of others” by initially playing down the severity of Covid-19.