In ten days, I will celebrate the first anniversary of my last haircut.
I didn’t think I would ever again walk around with a ponytail, but a pandemic has a variety of unexpected side effects of which unruly hair is the least serious. Of vastly greater importance is swift access to an anti-covid-19 vaccination, wouldn’t you agree?
Our elected home, La France, has been chastised for a very slow, overly cumbersome vaccination program laden with regulations in its typical über-bureaucratic style. For example, initially, health officials had to visit with the elderly residents of care homes individually to educate each potential vaccine recipient about the vaccine itself, the procedure to be implemented, positive and negative impact and outcome, et cætera ad infinitum before gaining written consent from each inmate. Clearly, political correctness gone overboard to ascertain no helpless elderly person would be railroaded, G_D forbid, into an unwanted vaccination against a deadly disease that had proven to be more devastating to nursing home residents than the combined powers of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Not surprisingly, this roll-out proved to be so slow it aroused not only the just anger of the Gods, never mind the horsemen, but civil unrest ensued as well, forcing the government to loosen its grip on the syringe plungers.
Around the second week of January heavy rumours abounded both in French & English language news regarding when and how one might be able to make a vaccination appointment. Eventually three websites bubbled to the surface of the churning sea of information, opinions, and vagaries, namely Doctolib.fr, TousAntiCovid.fr, and Sante.fr.
I was familiar with two of these sites. I had used Doctolib for communication with my severely sight-impaired physio guy who swears by it for appointments and bookkeeping. During the pandemic the site also became a platform for secure video conferences between physicians and patients. The departmental health departments now use Doctolib to confirm vaccination appointments and provide additional information for the patients, like driving directions, procedural details and so forth. TousAntiCovid, on the other hand, is a government sponsored phone app to keep members updated on virus-related activities, especially contact tracing. It provides all the mandated lockdown and curfew permission forms at one’s fingertips with one-click convenience. The third site, Santé France, is generated by the National Health Department. In addition to all sorts of health related information, it currently provides a list of all vaccination locations with phone numbers and/or web-links. One can search for the closest locations and contact them directly for an appointment. Here in our department of La Charente (16) with a population of about 350K we currently have 15 active vaccination centres for the general public, not counting the ones reserved for health workers. So that’s roughly 24 000 people to be vaccinated per center, just by the numbers.
As soon as the national vaccination program opened on January 18th for the first group of civilians, those aged 75 and older, I called our closest vaccination location. It took a few re-dials to get through, 15 as a matter of fact, since there was no holding-loop as is so common in North America, but then I connected with a very nice and helpful woman who provided me with dates for both a first and a second vaccination for my husband. None for myself, sadly, wrong age group. You can see in the screenshot below, how detailed and specific the groupings for the vaccination are:
Crazy, eh? And this is just tier one! Organ transplant? Stem-cell infusion? You’ll get priority! And so it should be!!
Fast forward ten days, when I received a call from our vaccination centre in Cognac. Sorry, we had to cancel your husband’s appointment. Oooops, no jab after all. Of course, everyone has seen the news about the global stupefaction regarding vaccination supplies. The producers promised more than they could deliver and we are all back in a holding pattern. Also, here in Europe, let’s not forget the politics, in particular those revolving around Mr. Johnson’s cursed Brexit. But he’s not the only British liar, AstraZeneca followed suit with reneging on promised dosages of their vaccine for continental Europe. Funny enough, though, as soon as Germany’s BioNTech upped their dosages for the EU, AstraZeneca followed suit – again. So, was it actually a production shortage? … Hm.
Most importantly for us, less than 24 hrs after the cancellation, my husband’s vaccination was back on track. Another phone call from the Cognac vaccination centre reinstated the original appointment. So, that’s what we did today, February 02, 2021, we got jabbed – one of us did, anyway 😷 I may be able to make an appointment later this month for my own jab, but I’m not holding my breath. I have the impression the process is well organised now and I shall get my chance in due course. Pas de souci !
Naturally, we had no idea what to expect for this all important vaccination appointment, so we left home for the 9 min drive to the Les Vauzelles Sports Complex on the other side of town much earlier than strictly necessary. The instructions I received for his 11hrs50 appointment had been to arrive at 11hrs40 with his I.D., medical I.D. carte, and his prescriptions.
It was a lukewarm, rainy, gusty, and grey day today. You know, a typical January day in the SW of France whilst a major storm system passes by 60 Km to our west, pounding the Atlantic coastline along the Bay of Biscay and points North. As we arrived at the covid-closed sports complex, comically searching for the most advantages parking space in the 9/10s empty lot, donning double masks before exiting the car – a white interior PFF2 delicately overlaid by a bluish one-way surgical mask, both certified & sold through a German distributor. Following the home-made signage, we made our way toward the huge building through sloshing puddles and curtains of clingy mist, the useless umbrella being sharply jerked hither and fro. Inside, just past the hand-sanitising station, we were greeted by a couple of smiling, uniformed medical services personnel who helped to fill out the obligatory questionnaire regarding allergies, previous vaccinations, and assorted personal data, before escorting us and our paperwork to the reception desk in the next cavernous hall. Here my husband’s I.D. was checked and apparently approved, since he was passed on to a physician who whisked him off into an examination cubicle. It shall remain a deep secret whatever may have happened within. Next was THE JAB Nº1 profesionally administered by a nurse under the supervision of a second nurse, followed by 15 minutes rest in the recovery area, just in case there should be an adverse reaction. The whole thing, door to door took less than an hour. Next appointment, same time, same place, March 2nd for the booster shot. What a relief!!
By the way, the I.D. my husband presented was his brand-new-hot-off-the-presses “Titre de Séjour”, his newly issued French residency card, valid for the entire next decade! As you no doubt remember from my last post, we applied for his residency renewal on December 8, 2020, a mere 20 months late. Back then, we were told it takes about three months for the new cards to be issued. To our great surprise, however, I received an email just over a month later telling us to come and get it, which we did post-haste.