I’ve gotten my first COVID-19 vaccine shot!
I know that many people have a lot of hesitation when it comes to vaccination against COVID-19. And honestly, I understand. There is so much we don’t know about this virus, and with new variants spreading, almost daily there are new findings about how the disease spreads. How can we trust a vaccine to stop something that changes so quickly and has killed so many?
But, like many others around the world, I’ve decided to trust. I trust that the World Health Organization (WHO) is doing its best. I trust that the pharmaceutical corporations that developed the vaccines did the work, did the tests, accounted for all the possible side effects and adverse effects. I trust that I’ve taken care of myself enough to weather anything the virus and the vaccine could possibly do to me.
For the people and entities we cannot trust, we lobby, we speak out, we protest. In the meantime, we get vaccinated!
I was incredibly surprised to receive an SMS one Friday morning, informing me I had an appointment for vaccination the next day. To be honest, I was not at all expecting to get vaccinated this year, and I was prepared to wait for the allocation from the private sector, expected to arrive anytime between June to September. But Oneal and I agreed, if the vaccine was here, and I got an appointment, I should go ahead and take it, whatever brand it was.
I informed a doctor cousin, and asked her for a medical certificate indicating that I had asthma. I prepared my IDs.
I got up early the next day. Armed with a water bottle, a USB-powered fan and a folding fan, I went to the hospital.
I was so happy to see that everything was orderly. There were hardly any people, despite reports from other cities and other vaccination sites that lines were long and venues were crowded.
The first stop was a tent set up outdoors. I went to the lady in charge, and I presented the SMS that I’d received. She gave me forms to sign: two copies of a consent form, and a health declaration form where I answered questions about my current physical state.
The tent had chairs arranged with social distancing in mind. There was at least one strong fan blowing hot wind everywhere, ensuring sufficient ventilation.
I filled up my forms and she waved me inside another well-ventilated tent. There, another clerk asked to see the SMS notice, scanned the QR code which showed I had registered for vaccination with Antipolo City.
There were large and prominently displayed signs everywhere, telling you where to go next. If there was no sign, there was a person, perhaps an employee of the hospital or the LGU, I’m not sure, guiding you towards the next step.
Step 2, “Counselling and Final Consent” was inside this well-lit, well-ventilated area, and I was asked to sit through a series of videos from the Department of Health, with Dr. Beverly Ho of the Health Promotion and Communication Service talking about the safety of the vaccine. One of the staff was observing me as I watched the video, and when they saw that I was done, they beckoned me towards the next step in the next tent.
A nurse did my health screening, and we chatted over my vital signs. I told her that I liked to monitor my blood pressure and my blood oxygen levels, and I was always worried about my health because there were a lot of illnesses in the family history. She said it was good that I was so health-conscious. I told her, “Malapit na rin kasi ako mag-kwarenta e! Mahirap na.” (Well it’s because I’m turning forty! Gotta be careful.) She replied (and I giggled), “Talaga ma’am? Hindi halata! Parang nene lang.” (Really, ma’am? It’s so hard to tell! You look so young.)
(Yes, I am absolutely documenting that part here for posterity!)
After our lovely, ego-boosting chat, she sent me off to a doctor, who did a quick interview to ask about my medical history.
I think the tents had some form of air-conditioning, because I didn’t feel sweaty or need my own fans the entire time I was there. The tent had curtains dividing the area into large cubicles, each maybe eight feet square, each with its own strong fan. The nurse was in one cubicle, and the doctor was in another. When he was done with the assessment, he signed my form and took out a card. He wrote “Sinovac,” then waved me towards the next step: vaccination!
I was so surprised (and impressed) with how efficient all the staff were, and how quickly the entire process was moving, that I didn’t even get the chance to ask someone to take a picture while I was actually getting my shot! So I just asked someone to take my picture at the photo wall.
I was asked to go to another tent for observation. I had to stay there for about 30 minutes. The staff–a completely different set from the one in the screening tent–gathered us in batches, one batch in one cubicle, based on what time we had gotten our shots, so they could check our vitals at regular intervals, and observe us for the required amount of time.
I had been feeling some tightness in my chest, and the nurse’s pulse oxymeter wasn’t working very well. My oxygen dropped to 87, then climbed up to 94. My blood pressure was a little higher than normal.
At the end of the observation period, a doctor came over and asked if anybody was feeling any side effects: pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, etc. I raised my hand, and he dismissed everyone else while beckoning me to another cubicle, so he could check my lungs.
With a stethoscope, he checked my breathing, and he told me he couldn’t detect any wheezing, or any constriction in my passageways. I told him, “Baka anxiety lang,” and he agreed. He told me, if the feeling persisted, or got worse, I could take a puff on my inhaler, or go to the ER to get checked. With that, I was free to go.
I didn’t feel any pain, anywhere. And aside from the tightness in my chest, I felt fine. I went on to a nearby commercial center and met Oneal for some errands, got a snack, and headed home. The entire process–arrival, forms, screening, vaccination, observation–had taken only an hour and a half.
I made sure to observe how I was feeling. As the day wore on, my arm began to feel heavy, and in the afternoon I was so sleepy and tired that I actually took a nap that nearly lasted two hours. The next day I felt well enough to do some gardening, and by Monday I was able to do yoga.
Like everyone else who’s been looking at the different vaccines, their side effects and development process, I had been hoping to get a different vaccine, perhaps AstraZeneca or Moderna. But while all the studies show varying effectiveness among the different vaccines, they do all 100% prevent death, and right now that’s enough for me.
Here’s hoping the side effects won’t be so bad when I get my second dose later this month. Fingers crossed!