A brief pause from our C-programming series to talk about my experience in getting the third dose (or booster) for the anti-Covid vaccine, on December 28, 2021. This is not a post against vaccination, rather a recount of how bureaucracy, disorganisation, and some traits of human nature are making all this way harder and annoying than it should ever be.
I got my first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine on March 17, 2021, and while I had only mild physical adverse symptoms, I experienced something quite strange in my mind. At apparently random points during the day, I felt what I could describe as an interruption of my train of thoughts. Let’s imagine that I was thinking about basically anything, and suddenly, my mind would go blank, me unable to kickstart any new thought. It was quite scary as it also happened when having conversations with other people, where they noticed I stopped abruptly in the middle of a sentence, and recovered from the same spot 5-10 seconds later. This happened several times during each day for about a month, slowly waning until disappearing.
Of course, I contacted my family doctor, who had no idea what this could be and, first, excluded any correlation with the vaccine (an answer that every doctor would have given me in that period because the goal was just to get as many people vaccinated as possible). He just asked me to relax, stay calm, and that it would pass. Other people managed to tell me that this was all because of stress, to which accusation I replied, asking why then no stress before had ever caused me something like this? I have no predisposition in my family for neural disorders, nor I had ever had any symptoms like this.
Regardless, it passed, and I was once more myself.
On June 11, 2021, I was given the second dose of AstraZeneca, in the same venue where I had gotten the first one. Doctors asked me if I had experienced any disorder after the first dose and, after my account, they dismissed this as something not correlated with the vaccine, that I should have contacted a neurologist, and so on. Well, if my family doctor had told me to get a neurologist to look at me, I would have gladly complied, but he didn’t.
The second dose didn’t give me such catastrophic consequences, but it altered my mood for a week or so. I would have extreme bouts of anger and sadness, happiness and darkness, once more something that I had never had before.
A due clarification
I want to be clear and honest: I am happy to have gotten those two doses of anti-Covid vaccine, given that my antibody tests returned excellent results already two weeks after each dose. I would have not traded Covid for the symptoms I experienced.
Still, I would have liked to be taken more seriously when I reported my symptoms, I would have liked doctors to be more prepared about what could have happened after the inoculation. I realise that most researches had not yet been completed, but I am quite confident that, if one really wanted, I would have not had to suffer that much.
But brace on, the funniest part is just behind the corner.
Green Pass and third dose
Twelve months … or less?
When I completed my vaccination cycle (6/11), my vaccine certificate stated that it would have lasted for 12 months. During the month of October, seeing the rise in cases, the Italian State decided to reduce the Green Pass validity to 9 months. Here, I already would like to ask: why are we punishing those who made the sacrifice of testing this vaccine for the good of every single human being on this planet? Why aren’t we adding more limitation to those who decided not to comply? This is no personal choice, vaccines have been around for almost 200 years, they work, they are reasonably safe, even more now that technology has progressed so much. The right thing to do for the world is to get everyone vaccinated and then move on with normal life.
Thus, I would have had to take a booster around 3/11/2022.
Suddenly, on 12/11, I receive an SMS from health officials saying that my Green Pass will expire on 3/8/2022 and that, thus, I have my third dose reserved for 12/28 at 2.39pm in the vaccine hub of my town. I wasn’t happy about this, I wanted to get an antibody check, but then Omicron struck, and it seemed that just with two doses I would have not been covered. Fine, I said, let’s do this.
What angered me wildly was a subsequent message on 12/27, 11.02pm, saying that my Green Pass expiration date was moved to 1/31. Why? On what scientific base? Why are again we punishing those who did everything the State said, complied to every single normative, and yet we have thousands of people around behaving in an aggressive and irresponsible way, endangering themselves and all those around them?
On 12/28, around 2pm, my father came to fetch me and my girlfriend by car—yes, we are still waiting for our car because of the chip shortage—and carried us up to the vaccination hub.
To our dismay we discovered, upon entering, that no one was working at the time, while almost one hundred of people was waiting there. It turned out that workers had gone away on lunch break between 12.30 and 2.30pm. I know this may sound funny from a non-Italian viewpoint, but to me, this is outrageous! We are trying to fight a pandemic, we need to vaccinate as many people as possible, not to get two hours lunch break! Please notice that for the first two doses we didn’t notice this break, but it was in a different town, as our town didn’t have its hub at the time. I want to avoid saying that those people should not have a lunch break, just have somebody take their place, or just go to eat in turns, it is not that hard to plan. But the best was still to come…
The waiting and the lines
We sat in a big hall among a hundred of other human beings waiting for their turn. Suddenly, a man from the Security Office rose and yelled:
Anyone with a reservation between 2.30 and 2.45 may approach
Chaos erupted! People started to raise hands, to run left and right, to try to understand what was going on, without distancing, everything out of control. We eventually managed to form an acceptable line and wait for them to process us. Meanwhile, more people were entering the building without a reservation, and they were pushed towards another part of the building where they could have reserved their place, either today or on another day. Now I ask: why couldn’t the reservation hub be in another place? Shouldn’t the priority be for no gatherings? As always, in Italy, no one has given any order, no one knows anything, and no one is responsible.
When our turn in the line came, we went to the counter, gave our name and reservation time. We were not, neither of us, on the man’s list. He then yelled:
You are not on my list, try with the next counter!
This is just ridiculous! I was looking for cameras around me that would tell me this was just a sad joke, but no, it was all real. After restarting the waiting line, we found the person who had our name on the list, and he gave us a new form to fill and a number on the B list. We needed to fill the form (luckily we had brought our pen from home, as there were only shared ones to use), then get in line in front of the hub labelled as B. By the way, everything was on paper, no computer, no system, no nothing; boxes filled with papers were amassed everywhere you could see, and I am scared to realise where all those sheets are going.
We then filled the form, which asked us to sign the following:
You have been informed about the vaccine you are going to take, about the possible counter effects, the medical alternatives in a language you understand.
You have been informed about the consequences of not getting vaccinated.
You agree on getting the vaccine against Covid and to take all responsibilities on possible future ill effects
Of course, no one told us anything about the first point, and when asked, they told us that they were going to give us the Moderna vaccine, and being it a booster, they would give us half a dose. I asked for side effects, but they didn’t reply, simply dodging the question.
What I find outrageous is this omission of responsibility from those there. I understand we should not sue the nurses giving us the vaccine, but the state should be held responsible for everything else. Something, if not someone, need to take responsibility for what is happening.
At that point, they told us that B was not our line, and that we may have been an F. We got in the F line and that seemed to be the good one. The woman there asked us about previous ill effects of the two vaccinations we had received, starting to note down some strange words in medical language, and then scorning me when I asked her to explain what she had just written. But nothing, I was put in another line and, soon after, called for my turn.
As soon as the doctors inside the vaccination room read what I had suffered after the first dose, they started to ask me some questions, as it seemed bad enough to not go for another dose.
I described to them, in details, how I felt like a computer restarting after a kernel panic, how my thoughts got interrupted. For the first time since first reporting these symptoms, I saw a serious look of concern in the doctors’ eyes. They asked me whether this had happened to me before, whether I saw flashes normally when driving or walking, as that could have been epilepsy, but no, I had never had something like that. One of them also joked, saying:
Maybe it was the stress of working many hours in front of the computer
To which I replied that if it would have been so, I would have gladly offered myself to science for a dedicated research on stress-induced disturbances after working on the computer. This shut them up quite squarely, as we both knew that no one would have ever invested a cent into that, and we both knew, inside us, that it was the vaccine what caused me those side effects. Sure, it was me and possibly, me only, but still, it was not something else.
After a short consultation, they decided to give me the shot anyway, since this was a different vaccine from the first one I had received. The nurse was very delicate, and I had no side effect apart from a slightly sore upper arm (especially in the deltoid region).
The ridiculous end
After waiting for 15 minutes to see if any side effect would show up, we got into another line to receive our vaccination certificate. If you recall, at the beginning of this article, I spoke about those people without reservation getting into a line. Well, that same line was the one we had to get into to receive our certificate. Just unbelievable, a total lack of organisation, of will of doing something efficiently, and yet, we need to thank them because, without those volunteers we would not have enough doctors to vaccinate us.
We fetched our certificate and finally reached freedom. It appears to me that our Green Pass is now valid for 9 months from the third dose, but it is possible that they will reduce it to 6 again or even to 4, which doesn’t make any sense.
When the time for the next dose will come I will perform an antibody test this time and, if good enough, I will just not do this. If it becomes compulsory, I will just cancel it if I need to go again to this place and ask for another hub.
What we learned
This full report is something you will not find on newspapers, nor officials will ever tell you how things are really going on here, how disorganised everything is in Italy, how your health is indeed their latest concern. They need to perform a task, they need not answer any uncomfortable question, they just need to make you comply.
I now thoroughly understand those who do not want any of this because it is possibly the most shocking medical experience I have ever had in my life. If every it will be possible to get a vaccine in a private hub, I will gladly pay for it. Public institutions are needed, if not fundamentals, but people there need to work with honour, with duty to the cause, and with absolute moral integrity. Furthermore, there needs to be a reward system in place, not to punish who doesn’t do their job well, rather to reward who does. Sure, the evaluation system would quickly become corrupt, but then I suggest putting some AI in place, as that would at least ensure neutrality.
I wish you success for your vaccination cycle, and I hope you will not have to experience what I have.
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Until the next one, this is Michele, the Music Designer.