In spite of the fact that we were assured by the secretary of our local ‘Centro de Saúde’, and in spite of the fact that the national Portuguese government decreed that anyone who is in Portuguese territory, for whatever reason, is entitled to get the covid jab, we were pleasantly surprised by the phone call we received last Friday. We’d been quite sceptical and kept telling each other not to have too high expectations of the system.
Levada dos Piornais
While walking the Levada dos Piornais with our Dutch friends Yvon and Jaap Willem, Noud received a phone call. A call on his Portuguese sim card. It was the Centro de Saúde in Estrela (Calheta) inviting him to come and get the covid jab on Tuesday, April 20th (yesterday). Noud asked her ‘what about my husband’? The answer came quickly: yes, he can go as well, same day, same hour (very comfy at 11.00 AM).
The lady’s English was okay but a bit hesitant. Noud passed me the phone to speak to her in Portuguese to make her life a bit easier. She told me we would get the second dose on May 18th, the same hour. She had a number of questions. Questions like do you have covid, did you have close contact with anyone who had? Are you allergic to any medicine, do you take antibiotics and did you get any other vaccine lately? We could say no to all questions, and the lady made our day by confirming the appointment!
You can imagine we had an excellent walk after that. The Levada dos Piornais is a pleasant walk through the Ajuda area of Funchal. We walked back to the car along the sea-front walk. Our friends were green with envy. They would have loved to get vaccinated as well. But as they are considerably younger, they will need some more ‘paciência’ before it’s their turn.
Sports center for covid jab
The location where we’d get the jab was quite convenient: the sports center in Prazeres. As there was no way we were going to miss the appointment we went early, we left home yesterday at 10.25, and we were queuing ten minutes later. The wait wasn’t very long, though there were quite a lot of people around. We received a different mask than the one we were wearing, a disposable paper one. From China, like the virus, the nurse said. Then, we were seated to wait to get registered. That took under two minutes.
Soon, they directed us to another nurse at a registration desk, of which there were several. She gave us a card stating the date and the vaccine and batch number, and the date for the second dose. She asked the same questions we were asked by telephone last Friday. But on top of those, she wanted to know if we were taking any medication.
When I told her I do take medicines for my blood pressure, she wanted to know if I used any anticoagulants. Which I don’t. I tell you this, not to give anyone an insight into my medical status, but to make people who do have to take anticoagulants aware of this. And of the fact that this may have consequences for your vaccination. I don’t know if there is, but it is a good idea to take your medicines with you. You then can show them what you use, just to be on the safe side. We got a small paper as well, telling the number of the boot where we were going to get the jab.
Some hostesses directed us to boot number 4, where we were cheerfully received by nurse Graça. I told her that Noud could go first as he was not really comfortable getting a needle in his arm. But Nurse Graça told him there was no need to be frightened. She said: I’ll tell you the same thing I tell frightened children who need a jab: think of something nice. When I suggested Poncha she said: NO Poncha today. Then, she made short work of the actual jab. Noud was pleased, he did not feel a thing. I did, but nothing to write home about.
After the jabs, the nurse noted the time we could leave the vaccination centre. There was ample waiting space where we were directed to some seats. A large sign calls it ‘sala de observação pós vacinação’ though it wasn’t quite as grand as the sign suggested. Two nurses were circulating at all times. Apparently chatting away with the people, but really observing those who just got the vaccine, to see if any of them developed signs of an allergic reaction.
eigen huis hier?
About halfway through our half-hour waiting time, another nurse, Nurse Fatima, approached me. She said: ‘Senhor Peter’? I said ‘Yes, how did you know’? She smiled and answered ‘A gente sabe tudo’, we know everything. I never found out how she knew, but she somehow looked familiar. Then, she asked me if I would be willing to answer some questions to the Antena 1 reporter who was interviewing people who just got the jab. They always look for some variation, so they want some foreigners in their interviews as well. Preferably foreigners who speak Portuguese. Somehow, they always find me. Well, it was fun and was a good way to end this vaccination trip.
Effects of the covid jab
Before leaving, they confirmed the date for the second jab. They will phone us again beforehand, to tell us the time for the second covid jab. We now know it is not an exact time, not a precise time slot you can’t afford to miss. We arrived a bit early but the nurse said it was not a problem at all. I suppose you are on that morning’s or afternoon’s list and whenever you get there is fine. Still, they will be grateful if you do respect your time slot, to spread their work load a bit evenly over the day.
paracetamol or Ben-U-Ron
Nurse Graça had warned us to get some Ben-U-Ron (paracetamol) in case we would feel a bit feverish. Or if the needle-arm would hurt. Noud had already read this somewhere, so he had stocked up a couple of days ago.
During the afternoon, we did indeed feel some effects. The ‘jab-arm’ felt a bit heavy, but nothing dramatic. Noud, true to himself, developed some light flu-like symptoms, like we expected, as he always reacts quite strongly to vaccinations. Early evening he took 1000 mg of paracetamol and went to bed. We expected him to feel a bit ill during the next couple of days. But much to his surprise (and mine) he feels all right today. I still feel my left arm, but nothing serious. Yesterday evening I felt a bit tired and that was all
Proof of vaccination
For use within the Portuguese territory, the card they gave us will serve as official proof of vaccination. For our use, if we decide to try and return to the Netherlands, it probably will be less useful. We ordered the yellow vaccination passports from the Netherlands. At the vaccination centre, they told us we should go to our local Centro de saúde. There, a nurse would put the details of our vaccinations into it.
We went there after getting the jab. Once there, the nurse said she would be happy to put the details in. However, she warned us, it won’t have any official status. She advised us to wait until after the second jab, and then go to the main Centro de Saúde in the council. For us, that would be the one in Estrela da Calheta. There, we would have to ask for a declaration of vaccination by the ‘Delegado de Saúde’, representative of the regional health organisation Sesaram. I shall let you know after our second jab how that went.
Over the moon
For now, I can only tell you I am over the moon that this whole operation went without a hitch. If I hear about the chaos in my home country where I thought everything is supposed to be well-organised, I realise I have to think again. ‘Chapeu’ for the SESARAM, the Madeira health services!
I shall write an update after we get the second dose.