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Getting the COVID Vaccine in Poland: A Guide for Expats

Jul 22, 2021

UPDATED FEBRUARY 2022

Everyone in Poland can get the COVID-19 vaccine and booster doses – including foreigners. But that doesn’t mean they make it easy! Follow this guide to get your COVID-19 shot as an expat in Poland.

Poland has a reliable supply of COVID-19 vaccine doses – enough for everyone!

There has been much talk within the international expat and digital nomad communities about the various possibilities to get the COVID-19 vaccine while abroad. Among all the hype about various countries that are offering attractive packages for rich foreigners to come get vaccinated (and presumably spend their money shopping), there’s one country in Central Europe that you may have not known is allowing any foreigner to get vaccinated.

And that is Poland.

While Poland’s vaccine rollout never made international news, Poland continues to be one of the most convenient countries in Europe for foreigners to get vaccinated.

The COVID Vaccine in Poland: Everything You Need to Know

Is the vaccine free? Is it voluntary?

COVID-19 vaccination in Poland is free of charge, and currently open to everyone living in Poland. Foreigners and Poles alike do not have to pay anything to receive the jab – though as a foreigner without Polish medical insurance, you may have to pay a small fee for a mandatory medical checkup. More on that later.

The vaccine is also completely voluntary, and outside of travel restrictions, there are no incentives or benefits to receiving it (beyond, you know, being vaccinated against a virus that has now taken the lives of over 4 million people worldwide). Unlike many of its European neighbors, Poland has not implemented any form of “health passport” scheme for domestic use.

Laws were passed early on in the vaccine rollout to prohibit most employers, businesses, and services from using vaccination status in a discriminatory manner, and the government continues to oppose the use of broad vaccine mandates.

Which vaccines are available? Do I get a choice?

Poland has approved all four COVID-19 vaccines approved by the European Union. These are the vaccines developed by Oxford AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson / Janssen. 

From September 2021, the use of the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines were discontinued, however past vaccinations with either of these vaccines will be recognized. Upon registering for vaccination in Poland, you will be given a choice of which approved vaccine type to register for.

 

Do I need to be a resident of Poland to get vaccinated?

Nope! All persons on Polish soil, regardless of residence status, are eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine in Poland.

During the initial rollout of the vaccine in spring 2021, only foreigners with registered residence in Poland were included. However, in June 2021, after a wave of activism from immigrant rights groups about how certain categories of foreigners were still excluded from vaccination, the Ministry of Health announced that vaccinations were available to all foreigners – regardless of residency status.

Official information on obtaining the COVID-19 vaccine as a foreigner can be found on the Ministry of Health’s official website

 

How to get the COVID-19 Vaccine in Poland as a Foreigner

In theory, the only requirement to get the COVID-19 vaccine in Poland as a foreigner is to have a valid form of ID (foreign passport or EU national ID card). However, due to the complications of Poland’s bureaucracy, you will find it much easier to get the vaccine if you also have a PESEL number

A PESEL number is the national registration number in Poland. Every Polish citizen is assigned one at birth, and every foreigner has the right to obtain one, even without legal residency. Getting a PESEL number as a foreigner living in Poland is an extremely painless and simple process that can be completed in a matter of hours. All that’s required is a passport and an apartment rental agreement for a minimum term of 30 days. 

Step 1: Register any prior COVID vaccinations in the Polish system

 

If you’ve received your first or second dose of vaccination outside of Poland, your first step to getting an additional dose in Poland is to register your previous dose(s) in the Polish health system.

This can be done by visiting any vaccination center and presenting the following documents:

  • Your original COVID vaccination record(s)*
  • A photocopy of this document(s)
  • A sworn translation of this document(s) into Polish**
  • A signed consent form to the processing of your medical data

*IMPORTANT NOTE! For vaccinations received outside the European Union, electronic vaccination certificates are not accepted. You must provide the full vaccination record, which must include the batch (LOT) number of the specific vaccine dose. Contact the vaccination center where you received your dose(s) if you no longer have this. Persons vaccinated in the EU can use their EU Digital COVID Certificate.

 **Poland has no shortage of sworn translators who can translate just about any language into Polish. A simple Google will find plenty of options in your city. The requirement to present a translation doesn’t apply to the EU Digital COVID Certificate.

More information can be found on the Ministry of Health’s official website.

Step 2: Get an electronic referral from a doctor

 

Poland uses a system of electronic referrals (e-skierowanie in Polish) to track vaccinations.

During Poland’s vaccine rollout in spring 2021, e-skierowanie were automatically issued to everyone in Poland’s national registry. From when third doses were approved in September, everyone who received their first dose(s) automatically receives a similar e-skierowanie to book an appointment for the booster. So if either of these apply to you, then you already have a referral and this step does not apply to you. Skip along to Step 3 🙂

However, if you have only recently arrived in Poland, or were here in the spring but didn’t have a PESEL number, you will have to visit a doctor to obtain the e-skierowanie. And this is where things start to get a little bit tricky, as does everything related to healthcare in Poland.

Not all doctors in Poland can issue the e-skierowanie; you must see a primary care physician registered with NFZ (Poland’s state-run healthcare agency). Private healthcare providers unfortunately cannot issue referrals for vaccination.

New to Poland? Your first step to getting the COVID vaccine is most likely to be at the doctor’s office 

Seeing a primary care physician (known as POZ in Polish) is a relatively painless task if one of the following applies to you:

  • You are employed by a Polish company, under an umowa o praca contract
  • You have a business registered in Poland
  • You are a full-time student at a Polish university
  • You have a valid European Health Insurance Card

If any of these apply to you, it means you are registered as an insured person in the NFZ system, and either already have a POZ, or can easily visit one. Simply call a medical center and ask to schedule an appointment with a POZ (make sure to specify that you need a referral for the COVID vaccine, as otherwise they may schedule you with a private doctor). See our guide to healthcare in Poland for our recommendation of English-speaking, foreigner-friendly medical providers.

If none of the above points apply to you (for example, if you’re working as a freelance contractor, or are here as a short-term student or visitor), things get a slight bit more complicated….

In theory, if you are not registered as an insured person by NFZ, you are not eligible to see a public primary care doctor. However, according to a decree passed in March 2020, Poland’s national healthcare agency is obliged to provide all COVID-19 related services free of charge to everyone, regardless of insurance. So in theory, all public primary care doctors are required to offer you an appointment for an e-skierowanie regardless of your lack of insurance.

We’re using the words in theory because in practice, every medical office will interpret the rules differently. And of course, there’s no medical police you can call when a doctor is refusing to see you; you’ll just have to try somewhere else. We’ve found that you may also encounter even more problems if you do not have a PESEL number; even though the rules have now changed and the lack of a PESEL shouldn’t be a problem, it appears as if many doctors and clinics are still unaware of this.

Our recommendation is to try your luck at a larger hospital or vaccination center. Not only will larger centers almost always have an English-speaking staff member handy, but they’ll also most likely be more up-to-date on the rules and technicalities than a small clinic.

Alternatively, you can try using one of the larger private medical clinics which we recommend in our healthcare guide. Although they are private clinics, they all cooperate with public primary care physicians and might be able to schedule you an appointment with one.

Once you have an appointment with a POZ, the rest is extremely straightforward. The doctor will verify your identity (bring your passport), and ask you a few questions to check that you haven’t already completed a course of COVID vaccination in the last 6 months and haven’t recently been infected with COVID-19. The referral itself is issued electronically – you won’t get any receipt, but your passport number or PESEL will be registered in the system as now eligible for vaccination.

Step 3: Schedule an appointment for vaccination


Poland uses a system of electronic referrals (
e-skierowanie in Polish) to track vaccinations. Once you have an e-skierowanie, it is now possible to schedule an appointment to be vaccinated.

There are currently 4 ways to schedule an appointment to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Poland:

  • Call the national vaccine registration hotline. 989 from within Poland, or +48 22 62 62 989 from abroad. The operator will ask for your PESEL or passport number, location within Poland, and will then give you a choice of available appointments.
  • Send an SMS saying ​​”SzczepimySie” to +48 880 333 333 and follow the instructions provided via SMS (only possible if you have a PESEL).
  • Register online via the online patient portal. Simply login with your name, phone number, and PESEL (yes, a PESEL is required for this), and follow the instructions.
  • Register directly at a vaccination center. Most vaccination centers in Poland are now accepting registration over the phone or in person. Many even offer walk-in appointments on the spot! Googling “punkt szczepień covid” will give you a list of the nearest vaccination centers to you.

Many vaccination centers are now offering “walk-in” vaccinations to those with referrals, however given how easy it is register an appointment, we recommend coming with an appointment unless you’re 100% positive that the site you’re going to accepts walk-ins. 

Step 4: Get your vaccination – and certificate!

 

Show up to your vaccination appointment at least 20-30 minutes early. Most vaccination centers serve customers not in the order of their appointments, but in their order of arrival – first come, first serve. So the earlier you arrive, the earlier you’ll be out.

Before getting the jab, you’ll be given a short one-page form to fill out. It is also, unfortunately, only in Polish, so it will also help to have a Polish-speaking friend handy at this point. Otherwise, you can always just ask around – the vast majority of Poles under 40 can speak at least basic English.

If the shot is your final dose, most centers will give you a paper copy of the EU COVID Certificate. If they don’t – ask for it!

Important Note: On February 2nd 2022 the European Commission reduced the validity of the EU Digital COVID certificate for vaccinated individuals from one year to nine months (275 days). This also applies to the acceptance of foreign vaccinations – if you received your last dose abroad more than nine months ago, your Polish vaccination will likely be registered as a ‘first dose’ instead of a booster. 

 

Getting vaccinated in Poland means you’ll get the EU Digital COVID Certificate – 
allowing travel to most EU countries without testing or quarantine requirements.

It is also possible to download an electronic version of your vaccination certificate by taking the following steps (this requires a PESEL):

  1. Navigate to Poland’s online services center and click “Profil Zaufany.”
  2. If you have a Polish bank account, you can login via your online banking app using the listed options. Otherwise, click “Załoz Profil” to create a profile.
  3. Follow the steps to create a profile. This may require making a very short trip to city hall to verify your identity.
  4. Click “Certyfikaty” at the top left, and then “Certyfikat Szczepienia,” and then “Pobierz PDF” to download your EU COVID Certificate in PDF form.

Unfortunately, at the moment there is no way to obtain an electronic copy of your EU COVID Certificate without a PESEL number. So hold onto that certificate they give you at the vaccination center – or better yet, make a scan to create your own electronic copy.

 

Need Extra Help?

Poland’s Ministry of Health maintains a 24/7 hotline where you can direct all questions related to COVID-19 and vaccinations, which can be reached at +48 800 190 590. Service is available in English.

Navigating the healthcare system of foreign country alone can be an incredibly daunting process – especially during such difficult times. For this reason, English Wizards is committed to assisting all of our Wizards in getting the COVID-19 vaccination, should they choose to.

If you are not with English Wizards and would still like our assistance in getting the COVID-19 vaccine as a foreigner in Poland, please contact us and we’ll be glad to help you 🙂

Want to share your experience getting the COVID-19 vaccine in Poland? We’d love to hear your story in the comments!

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