Three months ago, when we last posted, we were definitely deep into the Third Wave of COVID-19. The numbers of dead and ill were truly horrifying. Now things are changing, for which we are truly grateful. Let's look at why that's happening.
As of today Portugal's death toll stands at a few souls less than 17K from this virus. Our ICUs and COVID wards are not overwhelmed and the vaccination program is solidly underway. 3.8 million people have received a shot -- 2.8 million the first and 1 million plus their second (Portugal's population is a little over 10 million.) Our Lockdown has ended though mask requirements and other business occupancy levels are still in place.
EU-wide issues of uneven vaccine supplies started things off slowly, but now vaccinations are rolling out much faster. The overall transmission rate is also down except in locations where there is overcrowding and the very poor. That's something Portugal's government knows it needs to address, not just in terms of the virus.
Though we are registered with the national health service, we weren't sure exactly how all this would play out. We are both are over 65, have heart issues, and so could have gone to our respective doctors and asked for them to send a request for us to be vaccinated during the earliest part of the First Phase.
We didn't do that because we're hermits by nature and so staying indoors was not a hassle. Also, we're both buried in author-related work at the moment so we decided to just be very careful and have others go ahead of us. Those who interacted with the public daily, or were very elderly, were at lot more risk than us. We knew that eventually the health service would get to us, and they did.
Once they got through the very critical First Phase (elderly, healthcare workers, those with co-morbidities) the process opened up. There is now an online form for those 60 years and older to sign up for the vaccination (https://covid19.min-saude.pt/pedido-de-agendamento/) The SNS has you select where you live and your choice of vaccination center, then they send you a text message with an appointment time and date. By following their text instructions (it's a bit tricky if you're not paying attention) you confirm your appointment. They will also send you a reminder notice closer to the date.
We chose a school in "downtown" Porto (near Batalha). Harold was first up. In his case he received the Pfizer vaccine and so will return to that location in four weeks for shot #2. About a week and a half later I received the Astra-Zenica version and will be returning for shot #2 twelve weeks down the line. Where I'd love to have this all out of the way sooner, AZ has proven to be very efficacious when given 6-12 weeks after the first dose, especially for who are over 60. So three months it is.
After showing them all the info they needed at the registration desk (they will also want to know the name of your Centro de Saúde/healthcare center), I was given a form to complete that covered the kinds of things you'd expect -- if you were female are you pregnant, had you had a transplant, cancer, any allergies to the shot's ingredients, such like that. For me it was all negatives. A lady was on hand to help if you didn't understand what was being requested. Fortunately, I read Portuguese better than I speak it.
Then I was moved to another room where we waited a short time before being brought into a much larger room with cubicles. The moment I saw my nurse (she was a young and vivacious sort) I raised my hands into the air in a gesture of joy and she promptly returned it. She was so much fun, and soon the shot was done, the card filled out with the appropriate info (including the date I was to return) and then I was sent to another room to chill out. Or, more importantly, to ensure I didn't have an anaphylactic reaction to the vaccination. I remained there for 30 minutes and then I was free to go.
Over the first forty-eight hours Harold had minimal reactions to the Pfizer vaccine -- a low temp, some tiredness, aches and a sore arm. The AZ was a bit more dramatic for me -- 100.6F temp (I usually run about 97.8), a brain that refused to function and one helluva headache. I suffer from neck related headaches normally so this was one of those, but on steroids. We both made sure to drink a lot of water and not to take any anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS -- Spidifen/Advil, Aspirin, etc.) until AFTER the shot. 36 hours later the symptoms began to disappear and I was fine. Our immune systems did what they were supposed to do. Go us! I'm sincerely hoping shots #2 have equally manageable reactions.
Even though we've each had a shot, we're still being careful (and we're still buried with author work) so other than the occasional wander out for a walk there's been no socializing. That'll happen once Harold is 2 weeks past shot #2 (I'll be at 4 weeks at that point). But in the meanwhile we need to get our business work done and continue taking short walks to build back up our stamina. 14 months of being couch potatoes really saps one's strength.
Spring 2021 is looking so much better than Spring 2020. Here's hoping the rest of Portuguese get their shots and that here be many, many more smiles.
Fique Bem (Stay Well)!
Harold is a former software engineer. Jana is an author. Together they're exploring their new life in Portugal.