We look at how to get COVID-19 vaccinated in Colombia. Also, Jeff shares his experience as an expat getting COVID-19 vaccinated in Colombia.

Many Medellin Guru readers have asked about getting COVID-19 vaccinated in Colombia. So, we look at this in this article. And Jeff, the founder of Medellin Guru, shares his experienced it getting COVID-19 vaccinated in Colombia with two Pfizer doses.

Editor note: tourists originally were not eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations in Colombia. Originally for expats in Colombia, you needed a Colombian visa and cedula and be affiliated with an EPS insurance provider in Colombia to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination. 

How Do the COVID-19 Vaccinations Work in Colombia?

Vaccinations in Colombia through the existing Colombian health system. People registered with EPS insurance will be called to vaccination appointments at their local EPS walk-in clinics. Or you can schedule a vaccination using the Mi Vacuna app for cell phones.

Since the EPS providers already have data, they can schedule people for vaccinations based on their age and health priority and avoid mass gatherings. Anyone who is a foreign resident in Colombia can join an EPS and would be in the system for vaccinations.

Several Medellin Guru readers who are members of EPS health insurance have reported being contacted by EPS providers for vaccinations. And these vaccinations are free.

Note that private companies can buy vaccines but must vaccinate for free. So, companies that do this are only for employees.

Almacentro SURA EPS location near San Diego mall

Almacentro SURA EPS location near San Diego mall

Jeff’s Experience as an Expat Getting COVID-19 Vaccinated in Colombia

Jeff, the founder of Medellin Guru, is an expat living in Colombia and received his first COVID-19 vaccination in Colombia on June 3. Jeff and his family have SURA EPS insurance. So, are eligible for free COVID-19 vaccinations. Here is my experience being vaccinated.

I download the Mi Vacuna App on my cell phone, entered my cedula information and was surprised to find out that my first vaccination was scheduled the same day that I downloaded the app on June 3.

My appointment was on June 3 at 4:20 pm at the Almacentro SURA EPS location, near San Diego mall. The vaccinations for SURA EPS are being done on the second floor of this building.

I arrived about 25 minutes early. When I arrived, I was able to enter without a line outside, I had to fill out a short form with my name, ID and age information and then sit in a first waiting area.

Two rows waiting to be vaccinated

Two rows waiting to be vaccinated

After about 45 minutes my name was called to move to a second room where they had two rows of chairs set up and were administering vaccinations.

First someone come down the rows to get information including name, ID, address and cell phone number.

SURA nurse administering Pfizer vaccinations

SURA nurse administering Pfizer vaccinations

This was followed by a nurse administering Pfizer vaccinations. I was vaccinated and they had me wait for 15 minutes to see if there was a reaction to the vaccination before I could leave.

In total this took about 1.5 hours from the time I arrived until the time I left. And the next day my arm was sore, which is the only reaction so far to the vaccination. 

My second vaccination was on June 24. I showed the card from the first visit with my first vaccination information. This time the vaccinations were on the third floor instead of the second floor. There was not a wait to get in the row of chairs of people being vaccinated. For my second dose, it took less time and I was done in 1.25 hours.

Side Effects of Pfizer Vaccinations

Reportedly, the most commonly reported side effects, which typically lasted several days, are pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, and fever.

Of note, more people experienced these side effects after the second dose than after the first dose.

For my first dose, I experienced pain at the injection site for one day. One day ofter the second dose I have not yet experienced any side effect.

Phases of COVID-19 Vaccinations in Colombia

Colombia’s plan to roll out COVID-19 vaccinations is in five phases, as follows and Colombia is currently in Phase 5:

  1. Phase 1 – 100 percent of front-line health workers and 100 percent of people aged 80 years old or older (most at risk).
  2. Phase 2 – 100 percent of the population from 60 to 79 years old and 100 percent of second- and third-line health workers.
  3. Phase 3 – Teachers at primary and secondary levels, military and police and 100 percent those aged 16 to 59 with underlying health issues such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and kidney deficiencies. And on May 4, the population aged 50 to 59 was added to this group
  4. Phase 4 – 100 percent of institutional caregivers and 100 percent of the population in risk situations.
  5. Phase 5 – the entire population aged 16 to 49 without underlying health issues, starting with those aged 30 to 39.

The goal is to vaccinate first those most at risk in Colombia.

How Does Colombia Compare to Other Countries for Vaccinations?

Some readers have commented that Colombia has one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccinations in the world. But this is not true. 

According to CNN, over 100 countries have administered fewer COVID-19 vaccination doses per 100 in population than in Colombia, including many countries such as Australia, Taiwan, South Korea, Ecuador, Peru and Japan that have lower vaccination rates.

Colombia has 24 of the Best Hospitals in Latin America

Colombia has 24 of the Best Hospitals in Latin America

Healthcare in Colombia

Colombia has 24 of the top 58 clinics and hospitals in Latin America, according to a study in late 2019 by América Economia. So, 41 percent of the best hospitals in Latin America are found in Colombia. Nine of these best hospitals in Latin America are located in Medellín and nine are in Bogotá.

In 2017, Colombia had 20 of the top 49 clinics and hospitals in Latin America. And in 2018, Colombia had 23 of the top 58 hospitals. So, the count in 2019 has increased to 24 of the top 58 clinics and hospitals in Latin America for 2019.

In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranks Colombia’s healthcare system as #22 out of 191 countries it ranked. And no other countries in Latin America were ranked higher than Colombia. So, according to WHO, Colombia has the best healthcare system in Latin America.

Also, Colombia’s healthcare system is ranked higher than many wealthier countries like the United States (#37), Germany (#25), Canada (#30) and Australia (#32).

In Colombia, it is possible to have access to world-class healthcare at a fraction of the cost compared to the healthcare costs in North America or Europe. Furthermore, the costs for healthcare in Colombia can be significantly lower than the costs found in the U.S.

Due to having the best healthcare system in Latin America, Colombia is probably better positioned than many other countries in Latin America to handle coronavirus.

Health Insurance in Colombia

Health insurance is relatively inexpensive in Colombia and will cover you if you happen to catch COVID-19.

One of the reasons that Colombia has such a highly rated healthcare system is due to a new constitution that Colombia drafted in 1991 that made access to healthcare a basic human right to all citizens of Colombia, as well as foreign residents of Colombia.

There are three types of health insurance available in Colombia:

  1. EPS – Entidadas Promotoras de Salud– this is the public health insurance that is mandatory for everybody who is a resident of Colombia. The monthly premium is calculated as 12.5 percent of the monthly gross income that you declare to the EPS.
  2. Prepagada – this is private healthcare insurance in Colombia. The monthly premium for Prepagada varies depending on your age, the plan you choose and any pre-existing conditions.
  3. SISBEN – this is a free government subsidized healthcare system, which is only for very poor or homeless Colombians.

Medellin Guru has partnered with an insurance agent to offer health insurance and other insurance products like life insurance, homeowners insurance and auto insurance to foreigners and Colombians.

We partnered with Angela Berrio, who is a bilingual insurance agent who speaks English and Spanish. And she has many foreigner clients and can help expats with cedulas sign up for SURA EPS to be eligible to be vaccinated in Colombia.

In less than 15 months of offering insurance services, over 130 Medellin Guru readers have obtained insurance through our partnership including health insurance, auto insurance, homeowners insurance, life insurance and travel insurance.

This service is easy to use, just click on the button below to get started.

Use the Medellin Guru Insurance Service

We highly recommend using a bilingual insurance agent to sign up for insurance in Colombia instead of trying to sign up yourself. Everything for signing up for insurance in Colombia is in Spanish and the forms can be complicated to fill out. And Angela will take care of signing you up for the Colombian insurance that is appropriate for your situation.

Computer generated image of COVID-19, photo by Felipe Esquivel Reed

Computer generated image of COVID-19, photo by Felipe Esquivel Reed

Medellin Guru’s Coronavirus Series

Medellin Guru has a series of articles about the coronavirus pandemic and the impacts in Colombia: Also, these articles are being kept up-to-date, as this is a fast-moving topic:

The Bottom Line: How to Get COVID-19 Vaccinated in Colombia – An Expat Experience

The bottom line, if you are an expat in Colombia with a cedula and EPS insurance, you can get COVID-19 vaccinated in Colombia but will need to follow the phases of vaccinations in Colombia.

Colombia is currently in Phase 4 of vaccination. Note that we track daily vaccination numbers in Colombia reported in our popular article about coronavirus in Colombia that is updated daily.

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Editors note: updated on June 25, 2021 to add information about getting a second vaccination in Colombia.

Editors note: updated on July 18, 2021 to add information that Colombia is now in phase 5 of its vaccinations starting with those aged 30 to 39 and added information that private companies can buy vaccines but must vaccinate for free.

Editors note: updated on September 10, 2021 to remove that tourists with a passport can now reportedly get vaccinated in Colombia, several readers reported is not possible.

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