We got the covid jab!

We got the covid jab!

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.

Waiting for the covid jab
waiting to be registered for the covid vaccination

questions asked

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.

proof of covid injection
paper stating our jab boot and time of departure

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?

ample waiting space after receiving the covid jab
waiting space aftr the covid jab

Antena 1

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.

nurses circulated all the time
making publicity for the covid jab

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.


By Peter Groen

Peter was born in Amsterdam in 1949. He has a history in PR and copywriting. Now, part time resident of the Island of Madeira of over 10 years, he writes about Madeira, its culture, its overwhelming nature, its food and drink, and about everything concerning travel to and on this beautiful island.


    1. Thank you for this, Maurice. To be honest, I did not think anyone on these medications should have to worry, but I was asked the question and I am sure that was with a reason. I still think it’s good to be able to show the nurse the anticoagulant you use, just to make sure. But thanks for your research, for anyone using this kind of medication it must be reassuring to know they can be vaccinated without any risk.

    1. Very interesting article, Maurice. It looks like we have the safest of the present vaccines. No discussions about thrombosis and the like, and it works with about any underlying problem we may have. Thanks!

  1. My husband and I have just had our second vaccination and it feels so much better. Due to my health problems I am going to wait a few weeks and then start to move about more and actually go out and enjoy life. Well done you bet you cannot wait for your May vaccination. You are lucky we had to wait twelve weeks between vaccinations.
    As for the Netherlands well it is amazing how slow and ill prepared the whole of Europe seem to be.

    1. I am not sure how long it takes after the 2nd jab before it is fully effective. Hoping to get our 2nd AstraZeneca jab very soon then I will feel happier about getting out. I haven’t been to a big supermarket in over a year, have had home deliveries and used local shops.

      1. we did go to Pingo Doce in Calheta, but avoided Funchal if we possibly could. Having said that, the last time we did need to go we found it quite relaxed. Not too many people about, but still enough to not make it look like a ghost town.

    2. A good friend of ours is a highly placed pharmacist at Janssen and Janssen, the Belgian branch of Johnson and Johnson. She warned us to take it easy for at least a week after any vaccination. The vaccine tells your immune system to make antibodies and you don’t want to burden it any more by risking infections with other viruses, even an ordinary flu. So you do well to be very careful with contacts when you have just been vaccinated. It seems that the protection starts to really take off some two weeks after the second jab, but even after the first one (plus the week I mentioned) you are pretty well protected, at least against the worst of it. As for the chaos in the Netherlands (I don’t really know about the other countries) yes, they wanted the council health services to deal with the vaccinations. These are not at all prepared for anything serious. Underfunded, understaffed and far too bureaucratic. Some very vulnerable people have not been vaccinated for bureaucratic reasons. That makes me so angry. Since a week or three, the GP’s are taking over more and more and things seem to get better now. The fact that Astra Zeneca cheated us out of about half the ordered (and paid for) doses did not help. It seems that there now are enough vaccination centres to quickly administer a vast number of people daily, but that does not help much if you don’t have enough vaccines. BTW, we have the Pfizer vaccine and Portugal sticks to the exact prescribed times between the 1st and the 2nd jab.
      Anyway, be careful at first, but indeed, start enjoying life a little more. We are fortunate to get ‘stuck’ in our house on the island, as life here is so much more relaxed. Yes, there still is a serious curfew, one that would have caused a civil war in the Netherlands, but we can go and have a poncha at the local bar if we want to, go shopping (perish the thought) if we want to or even eat out. As long as it is during the daytime hours. That makes life almost normal. And yes, we do wear masks, but the bigger deal you make of it, the more it bothers you.

  2. The thing to remember is that even after the 2nd dose you can still catch Covid. The vaccine should mean that you should not need to go into hospital or die. You can still infect others so, you still need to maintain social distancing and wear a mask. Once infection rates fall to near zero then all the restrictions should be lifted. Now there are new variants from Brazil, South Africa and India we will need booster jabs in 6 months time most likely of a different vaccine to the first one.

    1. Party pooper! 🙂
      Fact is, we are well aware of all that, though the chance of getting it is slim, and infecting others is possible but not very likely. Just read an article that said these other variants are not quite as difficult to treat as some led us to believe, and did not cause all the problems that were predicted. It seems the media still haven’t got enough of scaremongering. However, we had best stay careful for some time, but for people’s sanity we really need to get back to some kind of normalcy. I am not really talking about Madeira. We have a pretty laid back life here, especially if you stay away from crowded areas, but in my home country and the surrounding nations they really have had it. I know it’s a dilemma but what good is physical health if everyone has turned bananas in the meantime.

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