As part of our efforts to monitor access to the COVID-19 vaccines for undocumented migrants in Europe, we’re speaking with national-level advocates about the situation in their countries. This interview was conducted in October 2021 with Ida Carlsson of Läkare i Världen (Doctors of the World), to discuss the situation in Sweden. It is not meant to offer an exhaustive picture of the legal and practical context in Sweden. Please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have information you’d like to share, and follow our Twitter page @PICUM_post to get more recent updates.
What does the Swedish vaccination strategy say about undocumented migrants?
The Swedish vaccination strategy foresees specific vaccination avenues for people living in vulnerable situations such as homeless people, asylum seekers, refugees with humanitarian permits. Undocumented migrants are also included in this category, at least from April 2021.
Can they access mainstream vaccination points?
No, the booking system wouldn’t allow that. To book your vaccine at a mainstream vaccination point, you need a personal number and a bank ID, which you use in Sweden as a form of digital identification to access online services and for online purchases. These numbers aren’t available to undocumented people. What is available to them is a sort of alternative health care number, which they get the first time they access health care and they can use to continue accessing care, but this is not valid for the mainstream vaccination points.
Where can they go then?
It depends on the regions. In some regions, like in Malmö, undocumented people can call a primary health clinic, provide their health care number and book an appointment. In Stockholm, authorities have set up mobile medical teams which vaccinate uninsured people. Civil society organisations, like Doctors of the World Sweden, accompany them in this process.
What about immigration risks as a result of people getting their vaccine?
In Sweden, medical confidentiality applies to everyone, and we’ve never heard of people being reported to immigration enforcement. However, many undocumented people still fear contacts with public authorities, because of perceived risks of deportation.
Are there other practical barriers?
At the start of the vaccination campaign, some people were unable to effectively access the vaccines at primary health clinics, because of lack of adequate information about their rights.
While this is no longer an issue, another obstacle is misinformation around the vaccines themselves. But this is something we observe in the general population as well.
Let’s talk about COVID-19 certificates. Are they required to access places and services? Are they accessible to undocumented people?
In Sweden, you can access any place or service without proof of vaccination. In general, the Swedish public health response to COVID-19 relies on recommendations rather than obligations. That said, COVID-19 certificates can be issued as proof of one’s vaccination, especially for travelling outside Sweden.
To access the electronic certificate from the dedicated website, however, you need either a personal number, which is only available to regular residents, or a “coordination number” which is assigned by the Swedish tax agency, on request, to people who have no registered address, which is the case for several undocumented people. In this instance, undocumented people who want to get their certificate would need to access the dedicated website, and request a coordination number by downloading, printing, filling in an posting a specific form in the mail. All this can be a complicated process for some undocumented people.
Cover photo: Adam Gavlák -Unsplash