With those reactions to my Facebook post, you would have thought I had won the lottery. All that happened, really, was that I followed the advice of doctors that “the best vaccine is the one that’s in your arm.”
Given the opportunity, and despite the fact that I had placed an order via a private company for Moderna shots, supposedly due in a couple of months, I decided to look beyond brands and political implications, and got my first jab courtesy of my local government unit (LGU), the City of Marikina.
Let me get this off my chest from the get-go: You are entitled to your opinion, of course, if you believe that the Sinovac vaccine is sinister, dangerous, of poor quality, or only for Dutertards. I am fully aware of and apprehensive about what’s happening in the Philippine seas, thank you, but I also don’t think the vaccine is poison—but that’s me. People must choose based on what they believe.
My eyebrow shoots up, however, when I hear people say “I don’t buy Chinese things, eeeww” (while cluelessly texting away on a made-in-China cell phone), so they’d rather stay vulnerable than take Sinovac. Or, as I heard from a friend, what about people actually faking comorbidities to jump the line, or, gasp, to dodge Sinovac in their Makati barangay and find a connection to get an AstraZeneca jab in Caloocan? Now, they’re happily teaching people how to do the same and get away with falsified comorbidities. How noble. How patriotic. How… just wow.
Anyway, being a locally registered PWD because of my mental illness, and having diabetes, I qualified under the A3 category—age 18 to 59, with comorbidities. Because Marikina rocks (sorry, proud resident here, and I am not on LGU payroll), at least in our barangay, the physical forms were distributed; we were asked to attach a medical certificate or copy of latest prescription, and submit that to the barangay. Between submitting the forms and receiving a new one with a stub indicating my appointed date and time: One day.
Not a common experience
I was scheduled for April 8, 2:30 p.m., at Marikina Sports Center, and I went with a driver and a yaya from our family compound, who also had comorbidities. Let me also say for the record that, unfortunately, this may not be a common experience, and the fact is, your fate may be entirely dependent on the efficiency of your LGU, or even your specific barangay.
There was no chaos when we arrived at 2:15 p.m.; people were directed to the left if they did not get to fill out the first form, and to the right if they already had a stub. It was warm, but not unbearable. Everywhere we went, employees wearing IDs directed us, checked our forms, and basically told us where to go and what to do. We sat in chairs, and transferred chairs to move up; it progressed so fast, by the time Bong, the driver, had arrived after finding a parking space, we were almost up.
At the desk, my form and blood pressure were checked, with the reading written on the paper. There was an item asking you to choose your vaccine brand; the lady at the desk informed me that only Sinovac was available for now, but I could indicate if I was willing to wait for other brands to become available. I said I was ready.
Bong, who has hypertension, and probably because he ran to catch up after finding a parking space, registered a high BP, and was asked to have it read again when we got to Stage 1, registration.
We moved to a covered outside area, where properly distanced chairs were placed all the way to the end of the hall. Papers were checked again, with the lady telling me to have a copy of my prescription ready in case the doctor asks. It was another sit-down line before I was in front of a doctor, who confirmed my A3 status and asked how I was feeling. The form asked if you had been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last 90 days; I barely made it, having caught it Jan. 5.
After that, the next sit-down line was for Stage 2, vaccination. Ushers would call the next person in line whenever they saw an empty desk; I saw 10 desks. When I got there, the health worker took my form, filled out a vaccination ID for me indicating the date of my second dose (May 6), fished a vial from an insulated bag, and jabbed my left forearm ever so lightly, I wasn’t even aware the needle was in, seriously. (And I’m a veteran of jabs, blood extractions and intravenous chemotherapy.) She asked me to hold the cotton ball over it, handed the ID to me, and then directed me to wait in the observation area for 20 minutes to see if I felt anything. Another usher suggested I move closer to a huge electric fan, but I was fine. Time check: 3:15.
As we were leaving after Bong had completed 20 minutes of waiting, who should I see but Marikina Mayor Marcy Teodoro standing beyond the observation area, talking to someone holding a camera. I fangirled, approached, thanked him for the seamless experience, and told him how proud I was of Marikina. No bodyguard blocked my way or asked me why I was sneaking closer to Mayor Marcy. When you’re doing your job, you have nothing to be afraid of, really.
We were back home before 4 p.m., and my arm felt tender for a couple of hours. I Googled if it was OK to take a shower, and did so after confirming. I also felt some muscle pain in my shoulders that evening, so I skipped yoga class and napped. It’s the day after as I write this, and I feel fine, but have been told to still be observant.
Many have asked me, from Marikina and elsewhere, what to do. Strangely, Marikina doesn’t seem to have online registration, but your barangay will have all the answers if you visit the office or call. Other cities do have online registration, so it’s all about waiting now.
I have been monitoring my Facebook feed, with many people, seeing the large number of those who “fearlessly” opted for Sinovac and lived, deciding to register. (I myself was encouraged by the sight of Dr. Joven Cuanang, a spritely senior and a front-liner, getting it early on.) Many also asked how long before they could get another vaccine, probably still afraid that Sinovac wouldn’t be adequate. (I believe it’s supposed to be effective for a year, like a standard flu shot, but ask your doctor.) Again, that’s your option.
All I know is, in a country where Filipinos are grateful when things actually work, my vaccination experience was a good one—mainly because I had faith in my local leaders. I feel good about getting vaccinated; at least I’ve done my part to make more people safe. Also, if your kasambahay and other less confident people are apprehensive, please convince them gently to get vaccinated, too. Don’t bully them; it’s still their bodies.
And please lang: let’s not let misplaced racism (yes, when it comes to the vaccine, call it what it is) and myopic self-preservation guide our decisions. Let’s do a good jab.