Portugal was slow to get its vaccination program going, but now the process is swift, efficient and user friendly – even for expats! (But you do have to be registered in the Portuguese system with a numero de Utente.)
Back in December, I received a text message from the Direção-Geral da Saúde; DGS, an office in the Portuguese health department which is handling the vaccination response to the Covid19 virus. It outlined a multi-phase approach. Some essential workers and people in their eighties would be receiving the shots first, followed by those in their 70s and 60s and so on.
Unfortunately, as many news organizations reported, the European Union’s approach to ordering supplies of vaccines left a lot to be desired. While the US and UK were able to go full steam ahead with vaccinating their populations, EU counties were short of the needed doses. In addition, there were concerns about the AstraZenica vaccine, the one being most commonly used in Europe, over a few cases of dangerous blood clots among the millions who had received the shot.
I filled in my personal information on the health department website, but by spring I was still waiting to hear when I could get a shot. I thought I would get a text or phone call from my local health clinic. But in late April, I learned that I could request an appointment.
I was able to request a vaccination appointment online. Within a day, I received a text on my mobile phone offering me a time slot. Once I texted back confirming I would attend, I was all set.
On the appointed day, I drove to the vaccination center, a large sports facility in Tomar, my nearest town. Inside, numerous assistants were available to help with the paperwork. They were quick to offer help in English to anyone who appeared to be having trouble with the form written in Portuguese.
Next, we had to give the completed forms to one of the assistants seated at a row of socially distanced desks. Large dots on the floor kept everyone appropriately separated as we waited to hand in the paperwork. The assistants checked off our names against the list of appointments for the day.
A row of booths had been set up for the actual vaccinations. It took less than a minute. After the shot, we were directed to sit on a numbered chair while we waited 30 minutes to see if we had a reaction. Another assistant informed us when the half hour was up and we could leave.
The only downside is that authorities here have decided to space out the vaccinations by 12 weeks, so my next vaccination appointment isn’t until late July.
Looking good for the future
But, Portugal has emerged from the lockdown imposed in January in a good situation. Numbers of new infections and hospitalizations are well down. Portugal is now on the “green list” of countries that UK travelers can soon visit without having to quarantine upon their return. And, US tourists may soon be able to visit the country again, according to Ursula Von der Leyen, president of the European Commission.