First off: while the government has not officially announced it, the requirement to wear a face mask and the strong advice to work at home will probably disappear from 26 June. Two exceptions: you still need to wear a face mask in public transportation (but probably not supermarkets). You can also only go back to work if your office can guarantee that you are keeping the 1.5 meters rule (5 feet).
Dutch article from nos.nl: Mondkapjes af en niet langer thuiswerken mits 1,5 meter afstand per 26 juni
English article from dutchnews.nl: Have face masks had their day? They are up for discussion, minister confirms
My thought? It feels a bit rushed, on both counts. I’ve gotten used to wearing face masks (at least inside or on my way to somewhere inside). Working from the office? I’m not sure about that either. Previously my office said not before 1 September. But either way, they said people could work from home if they wanted through December, at which time the policy would be reviewed again.
In even bigger news: I got my first vaccination today (Pfizer)! I definitely felt the shot right away; it pinched a bit but nothing bad. My arm has been getting more sore throughout the day but it hasn’t affected typing or anything like that. I also have a bit of a headache, but as that started before the shot I’m not sure if it is related or not.
The location I chose was right next to a tram stop, which helped a lot. I think about 10 other people got off the tram with me to go to the vaccination center (which in better days is an event hall, so plenty of space). There were signs everywhere telling you exactly where to go, with a parking lot for drivers and a pedestrian/cyclist entrance for the rest. It definitely felt like I was going to the airport. You show your appointment text (SMS) from the government to enter, you follow the signs and then a worker tells you which of the 12 counters to go to. At the counter they look at your information and double check the health questionnaire you filled out, giving you another questionnaire for the second visit. You then proceed around the corner (again with arrows everywhere telling you where to go). It seemed like each set of 2 counters funnels to a vaccination area, so there were probably about 6 vaccination areas.
At the vaccination area you show your registration information with which shot you are going to get and the worker cleans their hands (saying they are doing so verbally!), tells you to relax your arm and hold your sleeve up, and then the shot is over and done with in under 10 seconds. After that you are funneled to a large waiting area (with I would guess 200 socially distanced chairs) where you are asked to pick a chair and wait 15 minutes just in case. In actuality, people are coming and going all the time, so no one monitors how long you wait.
I am actually really happy with how the Dutch government has arranged the vaccinations. It is also going faster and faster: we reached 12 million 4 days ago and 13 million today. The first million took 45 days by comparison See also this tweet from the Minister of Health. It’s in Dutch, but it should be decipherable even without Google translate (dagen = days).
Here in the Netherlands we first vaccinated medical workers and the elderly, by birth year. Around the time we hit people in their 60s, we opened vaccinations to people with a medical indication. This information would be passed to the Dutch government by your doctor. After that we kept increasing the birth year. For instance, today vaccination appointments were opened to people born in 1997 and 1998. Usually one or two years are opened per day. Once your year is announced you can make an appointment online or call a special phone number. I went with the online option. You see three options. Each option includes both appointments, so you pick one option to book both your first and second shot. If you don’t like any of the options you can log out and log in again to try again, or try a different post code. If you really don’t like your options, you can call. Everyone also automatically receives a letter in the mail when their birth year is announced:
It is a standard package, although the letter is addressed to you. In the top you have a double-sided information page about why you should get vaccinated. In the upper right is the envelope (which says on the outside that this envelope contains your invitation, so you don’t accidentally throw it out), in the bottom right you have the letter that you receive, and in the bottom left you have the health questionnaire you need to fill out.
Since most people call or make an appointment online, this letter isn’t usually needed. You can even download a blank questionnaire, print it and bring it with. But it can still help to reach some folks. Check out this tweet from the Dutch ministry of health which shows you how the invitations are printed en masse. Considering 250,000-500,000 are eligible each day, it is quite the operation!
Also cool: here is a close up of the end of the Dutch letter:
Although the rest of the letter is in Dutch, the end does have this information in various languages so that you can also download a copy of the letter in your own language. Here is the link.
So: I’m pretty happy with how the Netherlands is handling this campaign. Two important things to note though: I am a passive person, so if I know I just need to wait and my year will become eligible, I’m happy to wait. I also did not plan any vacations in the summer so I don’t have to worry that I need to get vaccinated as soon as possible. That helps a lot!
And now I just need that second vaccination in July. Almost there!