Woes of a vaccine recipient

Woes of a vaccine recipient

It took me almost five hours waiting in line to get the first dose of vaccine against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19). I felt nauseated afterwards not due to the vaccine, but because of hunger and the mid-day heat.

Thirty minutes before the scheduled 8 a.m. start of vaccination, I was surprised to see a long line of people eagerly waiting for their turn to get inoculated. In the registration application, I chose the first hour, thinking that the process would be a breeze because there would be no spillover and, it being a Sunday, most people would rather stay late in bed than line up early to get vaccinated. I was wrong, obviously.

I chose the vaccination center in my district because I thought that it was being done by district. The center in the other district, which is nearer my residence, is in the middle of a barangay with one of the highest number of infected people in Metro Manila. I avoided that. It turned out that I made the wrong choice.

I believed some feedback in the Quezon City Residents’ Viber group that the center at Emilio Aguinaldo Elementary School was functioning well and keeping the process very orderly. Even while I was there waiting in line, I saw some feedback, praising the local government for doing a good job at the site.

The city mayor even dropped by the school to see that rules were being followed and procedures were running smoothly.

But some important things I observed while waiting for my turn were the opposite of the feedback I saw on social media. Perhaps it just wasn’t my lucky day.

First, nobody checked the date and time of appointment at the entrance. If one did not have a complete set of requirements, he would be turned away after two to three hours of waiting in line. That possibility would have been avoided had there been some people checking the requirements at the gate.

My schedule was 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., but some people ahead of me had afternoon schedules but took the chance of getting in line early. In short, the time of appointment was disregarded. What was the choice of time for if it wouldn’t be observed?

When I got into the line, three senior citizens who came ahead of me were complaining about the confusion in the queue. The marshals acted quickly by separating the line of seniors, leaving the A1 (frontline health workers) and A3 (18 to 59 years old with co-morbidities) in one line. Minutes later, they separated those under A1. But still, the time of appointment was not followed.

After about an hour, the lines moved orderly but very slowly. But some marshals had a disagreement that ended up with one of them walking out and announcing loudly that he would ask to be pulled out of the venue. That happened in full public view, causing agitation among many people in the line.

After more than two hours, I was finally ushered into the multipurpose hall. There was another line for the checking of requirements. I was asked to present two government-issued identification cards, which were already indicated in the form that was distributed outside. My medical certificate and prescription for maintenance drugs were checked. I was asked to write down my name on a yellow pad on the desk.

Then, in the registration section, three people interviewed me one after another, asking the same questions and checking the same requirements that were checked in the previous section. I don’t know the purpose for the repeated questions and evaluation of the requirements. That was unnecessary and a waste of time.

The last interviewer handed me a “health declaration screening form for Sinovac” which already had a check on the item that says “has no severe allergic reaction after the 1st dose of the vaccine.” But that was less than two hours before I got my first dose of the vaccine.

The next step was supposed to be counseling. I was ushered into another section where a wide screen television set was playing, albeit inaudibly because of the ambient noise. After a few minutes, I was told to proceed to another section, for vaccination, finally. But as I was approaching the vaccination room, a lady told me to go back to the counseling section for evaluation by a physician. I insisted I was through with that and, after a few minutes, was allowed to go back in line for vaccination.

While in line, I had to call out three women marshals for touching me and the others as they told us to move or fall in line. A few steps into the vaccination area, I called out a barangay official for wearing his face shield improperly. The vaccinator was not wearing a face shield and she came too close at less than one foot away, face to face with me, because she stayed outside the plastic barrier that was supposed to serve as protection.

I became annoyed because those people were reminding the public to wear their protective gear properly. At the post-vaccination observation room, the person counseling was not wearing a face shield and was not keeping a respectable distance from the senior citizens around her. I read in social media that the process at this vaccination center was orderly. My experience tell me it wasn’t, at least not on Sunday morning while I was there. If this was not disorderly to others, perhaps they’ve become used to the chaotic new normal during this pandemic. That’s pitiful.

The people lined up patiently, kept order in line, and followed instructions without complaining. Sadly, some of the front liners at the site did not.

How can we contain the spread of COVID-19 if the frontliners themselves are pasaway (hardheaded)? How can we expect the people to follow rules which some frontliners don’t observe?

It was somehow comforting that after nearly five hours in line for the anti-COVID-19 vaccine, we were given a bottle of water and a piece of cupcake. But if it’s true that the small cupcake and water cost taxpayers P350 each, can you blame someone if he wishes that those who made money out of this pandemic would get the virus?

The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.
This column also appeared in The Manila Times.

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