The lack of an agreement between Portugal and Brazil for the recognition of vaccines against Covid-19 has imposed obstacles to those who travel to the European country, such as the difficulty in obtaining the digital certificate that facilitates access to services and leisure activities.
The rules in force, however, still allow for an intense flow of people between the two countries. Whoever has Portuguese citizenship or from another European Union (EU) country is authorized to enter Portugal from Brazil, and this Wednesday’s decision authorizes travel by Brazilian tourists — although not all the details are clear.
Foreigners legally resident in the country, people with a work or study visa or whose travels are due to medical reasons may also travel. There are also cases of family reunions with residents in Portuguese territory.
With a community of around 1 million Portuguese in Brazil and approximately 300,000 Brazilians in Portugal, authorities have to deal with many cases of vaccines applied outside the EU.
Although technical meetings began in July and the subject was on the agenda of the meeting between the presidents of the two countries, in Brasília, in early August, there is still no pact for the recognition in Portugal of vaccines applied in Brazil.
Without an agreement in place, those who manage to enter the country from Brazil also find it difficult to obtain the European digital certificate, known as a health pass or Covid passport, an electronic document that attests to one of three conditions: complete immunization against Covid-19, disease recovery for less than 6 months or recent laboratory test with negative result for the virus.
The digital certificate is increasingly used as a requirement for access to establishments and services, such as the interior space of restaurants and participation in classes in gyms.
Even without the bilateral agreement, it is possible for people vaccinated in Brazil to have access to the certificate from Portugal. The path, however, is bureaucratic. To obtain the document, the country only accepts vaccines that have been approved by the European Medicines Agency: Pfizer, Moderna, Janssen and AstraZeneca. In the case of AstraZeneca, Covishield, a version of the immunizing agent produced in India and which had lots applied in Brazil, is still not accepted. Coronavac, widely used in Brazil and already approved by the WHO (World Health Organization), is also off the authorized list.
But even those who have been immunized with drugs approved in Europe still face other obstacles. It is necessary to request validation from the Portuguese health authorities, and, so far, only those who have a user number —inscription identification in the NHS, the National Health Service — can request the certificate. The requirement means that, in practice, the issuance of the document is restricted to Portuguese citizens, citizens of other EU countries and legal residents in the country.
In support groups for Brazilians on social networks and immigrant support associations, many people report difficulties in getting the European digital certificate. “My mother was vaccinated with two doses of AstraZeneca in Brazil. I’ve already contacted the health center several times and so far I haven’t got the certificate”, says Jessica Barbosa, a Brazilian who has lived in Portugal for 14 years and two months ago took her mother to live in the country.
Not having the document makes access to cultural and social life difficult. The government of Portugal did not respond to the article’s questioning about the number of people immunized in Brazil who have already obtained the European digital certificate in the country.
Those who do not have the certificate can, alternatively, test negative for Sars-CoV-2 to enter restaurants, concerts and other activities, but this is a more expensive, labor-intensive option and, more and more often, refused by establishments commercials.
Foreigners vaccinated in Portugal, but without a user number, are also unable to obtain the digital certificate. Although the majority of people in this situation are immigrants in an irregular situation, there are also foreigners with all their documentation in order, including Europeans, who have also had difficulty obtaining an identification number from the National Health Service.
Among other sectors, the absence of the bilateral agreement has frustrated tourism professionals, who fear that Portugal will lose space to other European destinations. In Spain, for example, even Brazilians immunized with Coronavac are authorized. France and Germany, the other two EU countries that opened their borders to Brazil, only accept drugs authorized by the European regulatory agency.