By Maria Olivia H. Tripon

I was hesitant to get vaccinated. After the medical frontliners, I believe that the working class (especially those in the informal sector) should get the vaccine next to protect their families.

As early as January this year, it was announced that seniors may register for vaccination. At 76, with high cholesterol and osteoporosis, I was still hesitant and did not register yet.

So when the vaccine from COVAX (the World Health Organization facility for equitable distribution of vaccines) arrived, word came from the Paranaque City Health Office that seniors will have their vaccination day for AstraZeneca. My helper got the form from the barangay and I sent it back immediately after I accomplished it. 

By this time, health frontliners from our family had their first dose. Doc Edhel who got Sinovac at The Medical City said, “the best vaccine is the one in your arm.” Doc Jim had to wait for 12 days to get his shot of Astra Zeneca in his Bulacan hospital.

After the ceremonial kick-off at Ospital ng Paranaque last March 22 for 200 seniors, the next schedule was supposed to be in May. I was surprised seniors would be accommodated before that.

Unexpectedly, vaccination for 1,500 frontliners and seniors from four barangays was scheduled on March 26 from 8am-5pm at the church gym. Don Bosco, our barangay, had 98 active COVID-19 cases on March 24, and 6,666 new cases in the country. The next day, new cases nationwide rose to more than 8,000! I was afraid. I posted this on our family chat group.

March 25

“Should I go?

My sons quickly replied.

Jim: “Go Mom. The virus count will just get higher. The best protection is a vaccine. Not just staying home.“

Mike: “I can send the driver at 7am tomorrow.”

Gabby: “What? With cases on the rise?”

I stayed home all year only to risk virus exposure with hundreds of people? 

“Ok tomorrow is off,” I messaged Mike.

8:00 a.m.  March 26

Jim: “Mom, did you go?”

Me: “Sorry.  I cancelled it . Late na.”

Jo: “But it’s only 8am. Puede ka pa humabol.”

Jim: “Just go and see.  When I had my shot,  I was two hours late.”

Edhel: “Aww Mom.  If  we weren’t compromised (with COVID patients) sasamahan ka po namin.”

Then I thought of families I prayed for but who succumbed to the virus – parents and son, only 37, who left a pregnant wife, also COVID positive; a father and son, and my own brother! The vaccine came too late for them. I decided to go.

I readied my bag which I have not used for a year! These are the items I brought with me: ballpen, reading glasses, alcohol, tissue or wipes, cell phone, powerbank and charger. On hindsight, I should have brought a book .

10:00 a.m. Mike’s driver arrived with N-95  masks for me and my son, Gabby. On the way out of our village, I was like a tourist, noting the changes on Dona Soledad after a year.

Then I saw our parish church, the beautiful Shrine of Mary Help of Christians. I haven’t been inside for a year!

When we arrived, we didn’t know where to go. We couldn’t tell who was in charge.  No one asked us for any ID. All they asked was, “bago lang?” A guy led us through lines of seated people to the church’s side entrance and brought us to the second to the last pew (four to a pew for distancing) of the second row facing the altar.

I was handed a form which looked like the same one I gave to the barangay days earlier. At the back was a health checklist for the doctor to fill .

 l0:45 a.m. I settled down on the wooden pew. It was hard. I would get up and tiptoe to stretch my legs and back. The church has giant electric ceiling fans and all the side entrances were open so it was quite breezy.

11:45 a.m. The church was getting filled.  People kept arriving. Those on the first row  moved outside toward the vaccination site. New arrivals occupied vacated pews. This elicited a lot of complaints from irate seniors who thought new arrivals were jumping the line. The marshalls patiently explained the flow. First come, first serve. It was almost lunch and the old people were grouchy.

2:00 p.m.. My head felt light. They distributed drinking water but Edhel cautioned us not to eat or drink. I was incredulous. Why? Daughter Mariel replied: “ because you remove all your protection (mask, face shield) to eat.” I sent Gabby to buy candies. That way, all we had to do was pop it into our mouth. We had two White Rabbit candies for lunch. I did not drink water to avoid using the bathroom.

3:30 p.m. Yey! Finally, I moved out of the church. I couldn’t believe five hours had gone by! I tried to say the rosary but the church was abuzz with the drone of conversations. The monitor also showed COVID info on a loop.

Outside, the line moved faster. Gabby checked the line leading to the gym or vaccination site. Ten frontliners, who were on the other side of the church, were sent in alternately with ten seniors. At least there was some order.

Here are the steps I went through.

1. Registration: You show the form, they input or look for your name in the computer. Then they give you a ”Vaccine Passbook”  with your name on it. This will be a breeze if you registered online.

2. Next step, they take your blood pressure.

3. Assessment and counselling: A doctor goes through the checklist  if you can be vaccinated and explains what to expect after vaccination. (It would be good if you can bring prescriptions for your maintenance medicines if you can’t remember them.)    .

4. Vaccination proper. I wanted it on my left arm. Then it was over! It was 5:06 p.m. They gave me my passbook. Told me to wait for 15 minutes for any adverse reaction. There was none, thank God.

5. Last stop. Guys with computers asked for my passbook and inputted the data. They explained that I  should bring the passbook when we come back for the second dose on the date as indicated.

5:30 p.m. We did it! So grateful to my son Gabby who was with me all day, even though he was not qualified for the vaccine.

Post vaccination

There was no wifi in church so when I got home, my phone was popping with notifications. I didn’t know my whole family was rooting for me. Even Henry, my four-year-old grandson sent a video, “Go lola go!”

For the next two days, my children kept monitoring me. Hardly any side effects. The first day, I felt heavy, with a little muscle ache especially in my left arm. The second day, I had a headache which paracetamol quickly dispensed with.

I feel so relieved that I finally had my first dose even though it took six hours of waiting. Thank you Lord for family, and the vaccine, as well as the Paranaque facilitators. What a jab. WWW

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Olive Tripon is a freelance writer and editor, and a doting grandmother. She is on Twitter but not so active @OTripon and has a blog, “memOrandom” that she tries to update once in a while.