HOW DO VACCINATION PROGRAMS WORK IN COSTA RICA AND ITS APPLICATION TO EXPATS?
by Quatro Legal Immigration Team | Nov. 16, 2023 | Article, Immigration
Costa Rica is a country characterized for having a robust Public Health System. In accordance with this, health legislation and action plans to enforce it are an important component in the political and legislative plans of the country’s government.
In health matters, the governing body in the Costa Rican legislation is the General Health Law which regulates the basic rights, duties and prerogatives of the Government pertaining health and its responsibilities with the workers and general users of the health care system. This law establishes vaccination and re-vaccination against illnesses and diseases is mandatory in all cases determined by the Ministry of Health. Exceptions can be made, for medical reasons, when the health authority determines it as feasible.
Under this regulation, the Ministry of Health created the National Commission on Vaccination and Epidemiology (hereinafter CNVE, for its initials in Spanish) whose main function is to determine which immunization plans are necessary. The CNVE jointly with Health Ministry and the CCSS, via highly technical medical studies, determine the vaccination schemes and vaccines that will be required as mandatory to prevent propagation of infectious diseases. They are known as the Official Basic Scheme, that can be extended with special schemes for people that are in a specific risk group. The Official Basic Scheme must be elaborated as a detailed list as indicated in the regulation of the National Vaccination Law.
As of the date of the issuance of this memorandum, the Official Basic Scheme is composed of 15 mandatory vaccines being the latest addition, the vaccine to prevent SARS-CoV-2 (commonly known as COVID-19).
The free and the effective access nature of the vaccination schemes in Costa Rica are contemplated to favor the most vulnerable populations, namely, newborns, children, immigrants, and the sectors that are located under the poverty line.
The General Health Law establishes that under qualified exception cases, this for medical reasons, vaccines may not apply to a patient. This qualification for exception must be indicated by an official doctor from the Public Health System, or by a private doctor dully enrolled in the Medical Board for Doctors and Surgeons of Costa Rica.
HOW DOES THIS VACCINATION SCHEME APPLIES TO CHILDREN BORN IN COSTA RICA? The Official Basic Scheme is thought to be applied from newborns, and practically until death. It is integrated by vaccines of only one dose and others of one initial dose and reinforcements to complete the specific vaccination scheme for the vaccine being given.
In the case of minors, parents, guardians, conservators, trustees, and custodians are responsible for vaccination to be made at the appropriate time determined by the CNVE and the health authorities. This responsibility given by law is extensive also to the mother before the birth of the child. The vaccines included in the Official Basic Scheme can be applied to the pregnant mother if exists a grave risk of contracting the disease. Once the baby is born, 2 vaccines must be applied, only in very qualified cases these vaccines may not be applied. This decision is made by the neonatologist in charge of the attention of the newborn taking into consideration to make the decision the eight of the baby, if it is healthy enough to receive the vaccine, meaning newborn is not experiencing any complications, or if there are any other factors that may represent danger for the newborn if the vaccine is applied.
HOW DOES THIS VACCINATION SCHEME APPLIES IN THE EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM?
Following the Official Basic Scheme vaccines are applied in the first 10 years of life of the child overlapping the years children attend the basic educative formation in preschool and elementary school. The General Health Law forces the Official Basic Scheme to be followed and transmitted from the health authorities to the educational institutions.
For annual enrollment of a child in the educational center, vaccination certificates must be presented as evidence that the Official Basic Scheme has been completed according to the age of the child that is being enrolled. To ensure an effective access to vaccination the health authorities, in collaboration with the educational institutions, carry out vaccination campaigns, where doctors attend schools and apply vaccines to the children according to their age. These campaigns are recommended but not mandatory, the parents can issue a letter to indicate that they do not want to take their child to vaccination, either because the child get too nervous, or have a doctor of their trust to apply the vaccine, among others. Also, of the doctor can be denied by refusing to sign the information consent forms sent by the educational institution to the parents.
HOW DO VACCINATION SCHEMES APPLY TO EXPATS ENTERING THE COUNTRY?
Commonly, vaccine against yellow fever is the only vaccine required for traveling foreigners. Outside of that one, the Health Ministry has a list of recommended vaccines for travelers, but this list is not mandatory. This applies for travelers in transit. However, foreigners that request their permanency in the country, can be requested by the immigration authorities to submit a valid certificate of vaccination, or any other health certificate requested by the Health Ministry.
Immigratory procedures in Costa Rica do not require vaccination certificates; however, attending educational institutions or health services can trigger vaccination for enrollment or receiving a service.
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