Sunday, 21 March 2021

Well, We've Been Done!

Imagining queues round the block, we arrive at the doctors' surgery early for our six pm vaccination appointment. 

But (of course) the place is deserted.  We wander in and the receptionist comes to greet us - we are the last appointment of the day and she and the doctor are hanging around chatting, waiting for us - good job we are early.

Some weeks ago Tod badly hurt his thumb and the doctor is more interested in seeing how well it is healing than talking to us about allergies and vaccines.  So we offer some suggestions - penicillin?  Not a problem. Lime? No, of course not! He begins to look a trifle bored with it all but perks up considerably when he tells us there is "a surprise" for us.  He opens up the flap of the large tent erected in the carpark and there are the two nurses who took care of Tod's thumb.  Like the doctor, they are more interested in seeing how it is healing than worrying about vaccinations.

Three firemen decide to join in the conversation since there is this large empty space and just us and Tod's thumb for entertainment.

Tod is led off into one bay, I'm taken to another.  I hear gossipy laughter from behind the curtains - this is all very civilised and relaxing.

Left or right arm?  We decide left.  I'd read wear something loose so it's easy to get at the top of the arm, but it is freezing cold and the tent sides do not protect, so I'm wrapped up in several layers, but we manage.  "A slight prick" the nurse says.  And it is.  Paperwork is signed, tablets are tapped as the information is stored.

And then we are taken to the next stage - a gym in the far corner of the carpark. How convenient. I'd imagined sitting in a cold tent - hence the multiple layers.  But no, we're in a vast basketball court - half a dozen firemen and women are clustered round the door awaiting our arrival and any pending sign of an allergic reaction. We are firmly told to let them know immediately if we feel at all unwell - they are the frontline and will be responsible for saving us.

I'm wonderfully relaxed about the lack of social distancing. Paperwork is checked and signed and we head for the far side of the hall and a random muddle of stacking chairs.  An elderly couple sit looking forlorn and bored.  We choose two seats well away from them and happily get out our Kindles. Fifteen minutes later and no anaphylactic shock, a young firewoman cheerfully tells us we can go. "Bonne soirée" all round and the fire crew are out the door, right behind us.

My nurse and one of the firemen proudly tell me they have done 200 Moderna vaccinations and they will be doing another 200 on Sunday. Well that's better than the ten a week Astra-Zeneca they were talking about.

We meet our smiley receptionist in the carpark who says "See you in a month".  It will be six pm again. There's a lot to be said for being the last of the day. We must remember to be early.

And touch wood, Sunday morning we are both feeling fine.

Friday, 19 March 2021

Nuisance Call - Not!

 We rarely answer the phone these days.  

A quick look at the phone's screen tells us if it's a nuisance call and we let it ring out.  Ones that start 097 are the worst.  Usually they are trying (still after two years) to sell loft insulation for one euro. On the rare occasions I do answer I say "Hello" loudly in an English voice in the hope that they just hang up.  I've given up trying to practise my French on people who hesitate as they try to say our surname.

Yesterday, Tod was out all afternoon at the Skoda garage and, not certain whether they might need to keep the car overnight, he took his mobile phone in case he needed to call me for a lift.

I, meanwhile, was having fun in the garden with our latest new toy - a battery driven Stihl mower. So when I came in at five pm I thought I'd better check for any messages.  

And there it was, from the morning, an 097 call.  Only it came, not from a call centre, but from our doctor's surgery.  They had (as we feared) cancelled our Astra Zeneca vaccination appointment. But, instead, were offering the option of Moderna jabs - for THIS SATURDAY - and would we get back to them immediately (by phone) because if we didn't want them they would give them to someone else.   

I phoned - to hear a message that the secretariat was shut. Knowing they were probably there for another hour (curfew starts at six pm) I leapt in the car, threw Bertie back in the kitchen and locked the door - he thought he would come with me - and hurtled round the back roads into town praying that they hadn't given away "our" slots.

Visits to the doctor and the pharmacy in France require the patience of a saint, which I don't have at the best of times and certainly not when I want to jump up and down saying "we'll take it, we'll take it". An elderly gentleman two in front in the queue for the desk, with a mask (of course) half way to his chin, collars one of the receptionists and a long conversation about his ailments ensues.  The other receptionist is called away by one of the doctors and those of us waiting, wait, and wait and wait.  

I begin to hop from one foot to the other - better than yelling at everyone - but that just irritates the people behind me.  "She's English" one of them says to the general assembly in explanation (that was after I'd muttered FFS, I thought under my breath, but obviously not).  "And speaks French" I snap, in case she decides to expand on my qualities.

Finally, finally, the receptionist turns to me, takes my carte vitale, finds the doctor and, joy of joys, offers us two appointments for six pm Saturday. We are to come to the surgery first to be checked in, then go across the car park to the tent where the vaccines are being done, then come back to the surgery for our paperwork to be completed and to wait 15 minutes in case we are anaphylactic. 

I skip out of the surgery cheerfully wishing everyone a "bon week-end" (I briefly think it is already Friday) thus confirming in the minds of those still in the queue that I am a mad Englishwoman. 

A friend told me she burst into tears with relief when she had hers.  I know how she feels.

Monday, 15 March 2021

I Head for the Doctor's Surgery in Town

Tired of waiting to be offered it, Tod went in to see our GP about two weeks ago to say we wanted to be vaccinated - unlike most of the French, seemingly.

He returned with a small, scrappy bit of paper with two dates on it - Friday 26th March and Friday 30th April and reported a partly understood conversation (our GP has a strong accent).

In recent weeks French doctors have been given permission to vaccinate using the Astra Zeneca vaccine.  They are being supplied with ten vaccines a week. TEN!  So on that first Friday the intention is that we will have our first jabs, provided ....  Provided that is, someone "more worthy" doesn't want to have it, in which case we will be bumped.

The "worthiness" for being vaccinated ahead of us depends on whether they have comorbidities - a word we never expected to have to learn and, said in French with a strong accent, caused Tod some confusion.

At the moment we fall between two stools. We are not actually entitled to be vaccinated because of our age and our lack of other illnesses.  We are not over 75 nor under 60 (or maybe it's 65, who knows these days?).  Over 75, you get Pfizer.  Under 60 (or 65) you get Astra Zeneca.  So our GP's doing us a favour.

There is an excellent system these days called Doctolib, where you can book online for an appointment - no need to ring the surgery.  Out of the blue, Tod receives an email for an appointment on June 4th. No explanation.  Hence my trip into town this morning.  An online system only works if there is an explanation.  As we had already deduced, the second date for April on the scrappy bit of paper is wrong - it's too soon.  They are now leaving ten weeks between jabs.  And yes, although there is no confirmation, the dates are for the two of us.

In the meantime, we continue to be mired in uncertainty.

More and more countries are suspending using the Astra Zeneca vaccine because of concerns about blood clots, which the WHO keeps denying.  But their authority has been much eroded throughout the pandemic and countries are increasingly going their own way, for medical and political reasons.

So will France follow suit and suspend vaccinations using the AZ product?  If so, will GPs be offered the Pfizer vaccine?  The doubt is doctors having the capability to store the Pfizer. Though a friend from Poland tells us they are managing there - the vaccine is delivered in the morning and used that day.

If France continues to use the AZ vaccine, will we be bumped from the list?  Or will the already reluctant French refuse to accept it, especially in the light of the blood clot debate? So we will find we are the only ones there?

Only time will tell.  And time is the one thing we have plenty of at the moment.