From file: Visit of President Sergio Mattarella in 2016 at the National Institute for Health, Migrations and Poverty (INMP) | Photo: ARCHIVE/ANSA/Paolo Giandotti - Ufficio per la Stampa e la Comunicazione della Presidenza della Repubblica
From file: Visit of President Sergio Mattarella in 2016 at the National Institute for Health, Migrations and Poverty (INMP) | Photo: ARCHIVE/ANSA/Paolo Giandotti - Ufficio per la Stampa e la Comunicazione della Presidenza della Repubblica

Gianfranco Costanzo, the health director of the National Institute for Health, Migration and Poverty (NIHMP) in Italy, has told ANSA that over 700,000 foreign citizens in the country are currently "invisible" and do not have access to anti-Covid vaccination campaign because they don't have a health insurance card or a fiscal code.

Over 700,000 immigrant citizens from non-EU countries currently living in Italy are unable to book a vaccination against Covid on regional platforms because they don't have a health insurance card or a fiscal code, Gianfranco Costanzo, the health director of the National Institute for Health, Migration and Poverty (NIHMP) in Italy, told ANSA in an interview on May 23.

In addition, several thousands more immigrants present in the country who come from EU member States are in the same situation. Costanzo said the phenomenon is "concerning" and could represent a problem for public health right now.

Groups of foreign citizens 'cut off' from vaccination campaign

The situation concerns "over 700,000 immigrants from non-EU countries who are temporarily present in Italy or irregular foreigners who have been given the card Stp (foreigners present temporarily), which guarantees access to urgent or essential health services including vaccinations," he said.

The Stp is released to irregular migrants who have been present in Italy for more than three months as well as to those who have applied for asylum but are still without documents.

In addition, the situation also affects "EU immigrants with an Eni card (non-registered European) that is released to indigent EU citizens present in Italy who are not enrolled in the national healthcare system." These are "regular immigrants thanks to the principle of free circulation of people in Europe," Costanzo noted, adding that "several thousands" are in such a situation.

The problem, he said, is that regional platforms "do not allow access with such documents. The only exception is Emilia Romagna."

Therefore, Costanzo denounced, "although they have a right to vaccination, in practice these immigrants cannot access it. The framework of regional platforms for reservations is desolating."

The online regional reservation systems require a fiscal code and a health insurance card number. In some regions, like Friuli Venezia Giulia, Costanzo noted, "it is even required to include the Spid, the digital identity code, or a certified cell phone number. With such levels of access, obviously these groups of foreign citizens who don't have a health insurance card or other codes are cut off."

"There is therefore a great element of inequality," he said, "which does not on the other hand concern regular immigrants who have a health insurance card."

A problem of herd immunity

This situation, warned Costanzo, "creates a bubble of people who can't be reached" by the vaccination campaign and "this is a problem."

"To obtain herd immunity, in fact, if we exclude important parts of the population living in Italy from the vaccines offered, we damage individual health on one side while creating a problem for collective health on the other."

Nevertheless in general, he added, "the evidence shows that there is no difference in the circulation of the virus between Italians and foreigners present in our country."

This scenario, Costanzo explained, "has been reported to the health ministry, which sent a note to regions. It is necessary to act at a regional level but the situation at the moment remains critical."

Talking about immigrants who have reached Italy with the most recent landings, Costanzo said that "we believe there are no elements of concern because the positivity rate from the virus SarsCoV2 among these people is actually lower than that of the Italian population."

The element is "in line with the epidemiological trend in Africa, where the rate is lower than in other continents although the reasons for this phenomenon are being studied," he said.

 

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