They step outside beaming, on this gray Saturday morning in Deventer. Jan Hesp (80) and his wife Afra (75) have just received their third injection in a large building of a former furniture store, which now houses an injection location of the GGD IJsselland.
“I don’t feel anything,” says Afra Hesp. “But I did do something for the fellow man.” And, she admits, “also for myself, I’m also selfish”, she says with a laugh. She feels extra protected against the corona virus due to the ‘booster shot’, now that the Omikron variant is making rapid advances.
Due to the age difference with her husband, Afra did not immediately get an appointment at the same time for her vaccination. But Jan urged the GGD: they wanted to go together. „In such a Dutch way, I have been whining. You barely got through it on the phone, by the way.”
On the site of ‘Runshopping center De Snipperling’, a residential boulevard with Gamma, Kwantum and a large parking lot, it is a coming and going of mainly seventy and eighty-year-olds. Taxi vans deliver people with walking difficulties. Deventer taxi companies are responding to the extra demand for transport with a special vaccination rate: 15 euros there, the taxi continues to wait, 15 euros back.
In Deventer, the taxi drives to the prikstraat for a special vaccination rate
Ria Pattij (69) also has “a little bit of the feeling of being extra protected” with her booster shot: “I want to easily keep in touch with our children and grandchildren. We babysit the grandchildren once a week.” Omikron also played a part in her decision, she says. “I was a bit carried away by all the panic. ”
The Omikron variant was a reason for the cabinet to significantly accelerate the booster campaign, which got off to a very slow start in the Netherlands. The national umbrella organization GGD GHOR called the ‘boosting’ a ‘historic operation’ last week. In a few weeks, 8.5 million Dutch people have to be vaccinated. In addition to their own GGD staff, ‘reservists’ are deployed – people who helped with the previous vaccination campaign or who have registered for the assistance – as well as the Red Cross, HBO and MBO students and, in some regions, defense personnel.
The GGD IJsselland is also speeding up. The organization has set itself the goal of getting 50,000 shots per week. This is now open seven days a week, with extended opening hours. 500 additional staff will be hired on a temporary basis. Things are running smoothly at the Deventer location. The queue that swells in front of the building is for the test street, not for the vaccinations.
Retired tropical doctor Marinus Gotink (70) comes out with his wife Nelleke Gotink (69). He is happy to explain why vaccination is so important. The more you let the virus circulate, the more likely you are to get mutations, he says. “We vaccinate children to prevent a measles epidemic, and now we save ourselves a lot of misery by vaccinating young and old against corona.” His wife finds it “difficult to accept that a small group has lost faith in science”.
Elderly people who have had themselves ‘boosted’ in Deventer more often express their annoyance about people who refuse vaccines. Koen Spliethof (80) was a math teacher. “If I do a little math, I really see that the number of infections is many times smaller if everyone is vaccinated. But in the Netherlands, many consider themselves scientists, unlike in other countries, such as Germany.”
Jan and Afra Hesp believe that vaccine skepticism should end and would like to clarify this a bit: Jan: “People who now need acute care have to wait, even if they are experiencing the pain, by people who do not want a shot. ”. Afra: “As far as I’m concerned, you won’t get a place in the ICU if you’re so stubborn not to get a shot.”
At the end of 2021, the patience of Dutch society will again be severely tested. On Saturday, the cabinet held emergency consultations about the rapid introduction of a strict lockdown. The Outbreak Management Team (OMT) advises the cabinet to introduce far-reaching restrictions to prevent healthcare from collapsing under the Omikron wave, it was announced on Friday evening. If measures are not taken, thousands of mainly unvaccinated people could end up in hospital. It is still unclear whether the Omikron variant causes more symptoms than the Delta variant, but it is spreading faster.
Another lockdown – and a heavy one at that? Gé Oberink (81) dreads the loneliness, he says, on his way to the parking lot. “My children don’t live around the corner, I’ve lost my wife and my second wife too. I like to watch sports, so that is distracting, but you visit less during such a lockdown. And my weekly card club is also ending.” But, he says a little later, „you can’t change it. You just have to shake it off, a lot more people will suffer much more from that lockdown.”
He got his shot, he says, mainly for “society” and for his children and grandchildren. “I’m 81, I’ve already eaten most of the potatoes. But I don’t want to cause anyone to die. I don’t understand those people who refuse to be vaccinated.”