Covid-19 vaccination at The Medical City. Photo from Pasig City Public Information Office
Culture

What to watch out for at the vaccination centers: cranky seniors, friendly frontliners, Destiny’s Child

We asked people from 7 key cities in Metro Manila what their vaccination experiences were like and what needs to be improved 
RHIA GRANA | May 01 2021

Amid the surge of Covid cases in the past months, many of those who swore they’ll wait for the Modernas and Pfizers and Astra Zenecas have switched to believing the best vaccine is the one that’s been jabbed into their arms. 

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III says the government has already administered nearly 2 million vaccines as of April 28, since it officially started its vaccination drive last March 1. Meanwhile, vaccine “czar” Carlito Galvez Jr., chief implementer of the National Task Force Against Covid-19, says the Philippines has so far received 4.025 million Covid-19 doses. 

The Philippine government aims to vaccinate up to 70 million people or two-thirds of its population this year. Which means we’ve got a long, long way to go.

Galvez says the inoculation of the general populace (people outside the priority groups) will start by August or September, as the country awaits the delivery of 20 to 25 million more Covid-19 vaccines. So people who aren’t frontliners or have no comorbidities will have to wait it out and take extra care till the third quarter of the year.

Those still deciding if they want to get jabbed soon, or are already scheduled to get inoculated, should find this article helpful. We asked those who’ve already received their first shots to tell us about their observations and experience in their respective vaccination centers. Their answers should give an idea what to watch out for and what to prepare. For example: entitled seniors who want to be first in line, surprise document requirements, and Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” playing full blast.

Vaccination at Jacinto Elementary School in Pandacan, Manila. Photo courtesy of Marco Nicanor

What was registration and scheduling like?

Bea Ledesma, Makati City, April 12: Easy and straightforward. The signup form was pretty clear-cut, and just asks you to upload a copy of a government ID with your address along with a medical certificate if you have comorbidities (which I did). I signed up on a holiday and got notified of my [vaccination] appointment after two days.

Male respondent, Makati City, April 19: Registration was easy, but scheduling was confusing. In the website, I had a scheduled date (the next day) but the time wasn’t indicated. I did not get any text notification. Then I received an SMS the following day for another vaccination date.

Jar Concengco, Quezon City, April 6: The registration process in Quezon City was easy. However, notification was sporadic. Parents of friends who registered a week before me didn’t get a notification, but I got an email for a slot a day after I registered. So I’m not sure what their system is.

Kelly Austria, Taguig City, April 20: I registered at Taguig’s TRACE App last February 12. I received an SMS confirmation of my registration last April 6 with a brief explanation of the vaccine program. Last April 19, I received an SMS that I was scheduled for vaccination on April 20. It was very easy.

Marco Nicanor, Manila, April 14: Registration online was fairly easy. Problem was while some received personal notifications about vaccination schedules, others didn’t, like me. This resulted in a first-come-first-served basis setup in the vaccination sites. Many who did not arrive early enough were turned away. I was turned away twice.

Chuchi Yadao, Pasig City, April 16: I registered online last March 26, but a group from Pasig City Hall came over the following week to have the senior citizens in our barangay fill out the printed copy of the form. I told them I had registered online but they still requested me to fill out the hard copy. I noticed it’s the same form I filled out online. I received an SMS April 15 from Pasig City Health Office informing me of my vaccination schedule the next day. It also included the venue and the things I needed to bring with me.

Rina Gomez, Marikina City, April 5: There had been no formal announcement [about vaccine schedules and procedures] from the Marikina PIO Facebook page until mid-April. I tried to message them but I didn’t get any reply. Good thing I was able to see a news article that collated vaccination procedures of different municipalities for people with comorbidities. They posted contact numbers if you wanted to register in Marikina. So I messaged and they promptly replied with the schedule of vaccination and what we needed to bring (e.g. medical clearance, list of maintenance medicines). My husband, brother, and I were all able to get Sinovac vaccines. [The city government has] since made vaccination announcements on the Marikina PIO Facebook page and asked everyone to register online.

Evelyn Casal-Dacumos, Parañaque City, April 16: The registration online has been easy for some people but a challenge for those who aren’t techie like us seniors. So my husband and I asked a nurse-acquaintance at the barangay hall to help us out with online registration. We were given our patient/code numbers and advised to go to the barangay gym for initial screening the following day. We were vaccinated the day after screening.

Vaccination at Batasan Hills High School Covered Court. Photo courtesy of Jar Concengco

Tell us about your vaccination center.

Bea: [I got vaccinated at the] air-conditioned, roomy Makati Coliseum. It was my first time there so I had to Waze it. (Hot tip: parking is limited, but there are people on the street who will assist you, so I recommend you come in a little earlier to wrangle a parking spot.) The venue had an electric signboard above the court which displayed the number of people vaccinated so far. I spotted 8,890 vaxxed on the board while “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child played on loudspeakers. The entire process was organized, with people at each point ushering you from one spot to another. I was asked to present a recent prescription or medical certificate as proof of comorbidities, so make sure to bring documentation.

Gracia BubanQuezon CityApril 13: I got vaccinated at Placido del Mundo Elementary School [in Novaliches]. It’s a public school, not air-conditioned. The setup was kind of confusing. After entering the school’s parking area, there was a booth where security guards were stationed. They pointed me to where I should go. But I missed a step because there was no clear instruction or procedure at the venue. You don’t even know how many stations you have to go through. Also, I found it weird that the first thing I needed to do was to get a number from a lady wearing a Metro Aide costume, who was sitting on a Monoblock chair on one corner. There was no sign it was the first station. When I got to the second station, di naman needed ang number because you simply needed to fall in line.

Jar: Went to Batasan Hills High School Covered Court. The first step was to sign up with the guard. He hands you a clipboard and a pen (which doesn’t get sanitized since he handed the clipboard to the next person behind me). I brought my own pen. I think it would help if there were less instances where we shared items such as these. The center I went to provided bottled water. But I refrained from drinking while waiting and kept my mask on the whole time. There was a time I was in the wrong line, so sometimes it got confusing which was the next step.

Joaquin de Jesus, Quezon City, April 12: I accompanied my parents to Pinyahan Elementary School and it was an excellent choice. There was an al fresco quadrangle and a covered but open-air venue where most of the pre-vaccination steps took place. The entire area was airy, bright (maaliwalas), clean, and the steps were evenly spaced in between. We went mid-afternoon. The sun was high but the trees and spaciousness [of the area] made the summer heat bearable.

Kelly: I had my vaccine administered at the Samsung Hall of SM Aura. It was very organized. There were four stations. The first station checked my SMS and ID. They also checked my temperature. The second station was for my blood pressure and oxygen level. The third station was where I got interviewed by a doctor. Then, the vaccination area. After that was the monitoring. Since I have allergies, I had to stay for 30 minutes. There were roving doctors and nurses doing check-ups and taking our blood pressure. Since the area was air-conditioned, there were air purifiers or filters strategically located. Proper social distancing was observed so I felt safe. The whole process was very pleasant and I really wish all government services are like that.

Marco: I was vaccinated at Jacinto Elementary School in Pandacan, Manila. While it is considerably near a major thoroughfare, the streets leading up to the location are quite narrow. And since it is in a residential area where the residents’ cars are mostly parked on the streets, parking was pretty scarce in the vicinity. The vaccination activity was done in the open area, with the queue starting from their gate, going to their open walkway, and finally to their covered court. There were sufficient signages and personnel to direct the traffic and flow of the people.

Stonibert LimManila, April 1: The vaccination center is at Pedro Guevarra High School, in San Nicolas Manila. It’s accessible since it is on a main road, open air, and in the middle of a basketball court.  The signs were readily seen and visible, and indicated on each section of the court.

Norman Kraft, Pasig, April 6: The vaccination center for our priority category was located in one of the buildings at the Pasig City Hall compound. It was quite accessible to all—not open air, but very spacious. The venue was not air-conditioned but to me the cooling system and ventilation seemed adequate. There were several units of large cooling fans throughout the vaccination site. There were signages to help direct people where they should go, but for me it was the staff who were more helpful in guiding the people.  

Chuchi Yadao: The venue was at Pasig Elementary School grounds and classrooms. We were requested to sign as we enter the venue and had our temperature checked. Once done, we were led to the tents, where most of the senior citizens were waiting for their turn. But before this, we were asked to show our QR pass for them to check our profile info documents. One thing I noticed was there were several documents [that needed] to be signed as “waiver” for the type of vaccine we were about to receive. I even joked [the people manning the registration] that this actually made me worry more since I signed several waivers for the Sinovac vaccine. They explained it was protocol since they started with the AstraZeneca vaccine and it was only on that day that they were injecting the Sinovac vaccine. I did not really mind since I would rather be vaccinated than NOT, so any brand is OK with me.

Evelyn: The vaccination center was the gym/basketball court of Bgy. Don Bosco, Parañaque. Parking was adequate, but since people use vans nowadays instead of small cars, there was light traffic in entering. The gym/court was spacious with good lighting; large overhead fans were on allowing good air circulation.

Emily Ignacio, April 10: I got vaccinated at the Pasig Elementary School beside the City Hall. There was a line already when we got to the venue. The line was already on the open field outside the school. Chairs were provided naman and fortunately, the weather was not too hot and medyo kulimlim. We just followed the flow of the line until we reached the tent and the classrooms, which were properly labeled.

Tina: The venue was really nice—at the Marikina Sports Complex. It was open air, huge, and quite accessible.

Vaccination queue at Placido del Mundo Elementary School. Photo courtesy of Gracia Buban

How was the quality of assistance?

Bea: All the organizers [at the Makati Coliseum] were in PPE. When you enter, there was a police (or someone who seemed like a police) who asked me to prepare the text notification of my appointment, which I flashed to the dude by the entrance. Then I presented my government ID, which was cross-checked on their server. Then the attendant handed me my vaccination card with a QR code and my name). There weren’t many lines—a function of organization and smooth scheduling? Or just not that many people willing to be jabbed? Who knows.

Jar: Since I fell into the A3 category (with comorbidity - cardiovascular disease to be exact), I had some trouble during the last screening. The screener [at Batasan Hills High School Covered Court] insisted that I needed a formal clearance from my cardiologist (though this was not stated as a listed requirement on their website at the time). So we called my cardiologist (who happens to be the head of the Philippine Heart Center) and he was furious that they were asking for this. He insisted it was unnecessary and that proof of comorbidity was enough. Although he ended up writing me a quick clearance through Viber, the screener wanted me to go out and have this printed. I argued that that would be undue exposure and totally unnecessary when I can easily forward to them the clearance digitally. Good thing they agreed. Other than that, everyone was very accommodating and helpful.

Joaquin: The assistance, the processing and guidance were respectful, warm and sincere at [Pinyahan Elementary School]. Everyone from the vaccine recipients, the health workers, to the volunteers were pleasant, orderly and efficient.

Kelly: There were guides or ushers [at Samsung Hall of SM Aura] and they were all nice and very attentive. They were really focused on the job and on helping people. Even the doctors also took the time to answer all my questions. I am very happy with Taguig. And yes, they were wearing face masks and face shields properly. Social distancing was observed.

Norman: There were ample personnel [in our vaccination center at the Pasig City Hall] to help usher and guide people where to go and what to do. They seemed very well-informed and well-versed on the process. I was impressed with how courteous they were. The wearing of masks and face shields and physical distancing protocols were followed.  

Gracia: [At Placido del Mundo Elementary School], we were herded like cows. Haha! It was pointless to line up after Station 2 because when you get to have your BP checked and you have high blood pressure, you’ll have to wait it out until it normalizes. This breaks up the line because those who immediately “qualify” get ahead, while those with high BP had to wait, or were sent home.

Stonibert: Barangay officials were very helpful and assisted us every step of the way [at Pedro Guevarra High School]. They were knowledgeable on the step-by-step process. All were wearing masks, some though weren’t wearing their face shields properly. They keep a safe distance and always remind people to do so as well.

 

Was everything orderly?

Bea: Seats in certain waiting areas were definitely not 6 feet apart. Seating in the stadium was pretty organized laterally—there were X marks across each seat meant to be left empty. Vertically, they could’ve been better spaced, but I’m just nitpicking.  

Jar: You needed to move seats every time the line moved. This could have easily been avoided using a number system. I can’t say the chairs were one meter apart from each other, but they weren’t too close either. This is why keeping my mask and face shield on at all times was important for me. There were a few times I had to ask where I had to go next so there can be more chronological signs to show what step you were on.

Joaquin: The flow of the process was clear and simple. The only odd thing about the process was that they didn’t scan the QR code at all. There was a multi-page paper questionnaire given at the first step, which honestly, can all be potentially addressed in the app.

Kelly: Very orderly! No crowding. Social distancing was followed.

Marco: There were some areas where I felt the distance of the chairs were too close (only one-meter distance or less). But all in all, the process was very smooth and orderly. Minus points to the politicians who distributed water bottles with their name and face stickered on them.

Stonibert: Everything was orderly, as people were given numbers before they were able to come in. The seats allocated were organized, so people just follow the queue. There was no crowding, but there were still a lot of people in the basketball court.

Norman: I was surprised how orderly and smooth the process turned out to be. Finishing each step was easy. People were socially distanced while waiting for their turn at each step. People knew where to go next because the attendants would immediately be there to help. There was no crowding. There were not that many people.    

 

How was the vaccination itself? Was your frontliner able to answer your questions? Was he or she helpful?

Bea: [The lady who administered the vaccine] asked me which arm I preferred to be jabbed. “Which arm would you recommend?” I said, as though I were speaking to a sommelier on a summer wine pairing with my nicoise. I wore a bright sleeveless dress so that I wouldn’t have to take off anything. Also it was hot outside so...

Jar: The vaccination itself was painless and done in less than a second. I’ve had injections more painful in the past. This one made me think, “That was it?” They did make sure to ask you if you had any questions. I didn’t have any but they were very helpful.

Kelly: I was done in less than 15 minutes, plus 30 minutes for the observation. They were able to answer all my questions and I appreciate that they answered me pleasantly.

Marco: The frontliners I encountered were very patient, helpful, reassuring, and friendly. You could feel they take pride in being a part of the vaccination drive.

Norman: Went well. The frontliners were very helpful, cordial, and willing to answer questions. They showed the vial of the vaccine without hesitation when I asked what brand of vaccine I was getting.

Tina: Pretty smooth. There were only a few people getting vaccinated at the time (maybe because there weren’t any local announcements yet) and there were many volunteers to assist us. We completed the entire process in less than an hour.

Evelyn: The frontliners wore PPE-like suits, masks and shields. They were very courteous and polite. I asked if I can be injected on the left arm since I cook with my right arm and she said, “Wala pong problema Ma’am. Relax lang po kayo.” The [actual jab of the] long-awaited, fussed-about Sinovac vaccine was done in 5 minutes.

Gracia: They were doing their best to be nice. But it was obvious they were tired. The nurse who assisted me was not into small talk. But I guess they don’t engage that much for safety reasons and for faster vaccination.  

Vaccination area at SM Aura in Taguig City. Photo from taguig.gov.ph

How long did the whole process take?

Gracia: It took 1.5 hours for me. There were steps that took too long. There were redundant steps—may ginawa nang screening tapos uulit pa. Also, there were extra encoding of information na andun naman sa system nila.

Jar: About 3 hours. Most of it spent in line waiting for the final screening. At the final screening, I spent about 40 minutes explaining my cardiologist’s persistence that a clearance wasn’t necessary. Although my doctor said he would take this up with DOH, maybe these are definitely things that they can iron out beforehand so that the overall wait time for everyone can be shortened.

Kelly: I finished [the whole process], including observation, in less than 45 minutes.

Chuchi: The actual vaccination took about 5 to 15 minutes including the final interview of the medical team, the final instructions to us senior citizens (for the second dose), and what to do if any reactions were experienced when one gets home. The step that took too long was the “waiting game” before the actual vaccination. Since most of the senior citizens had to have a normal level of BP before vaccination, we all had to wait.

Stonibert: It took 2 hours to complete the process [at the Pedro Guevarra High School, in San Nicolas, Manila]. The only stage that took long was the waiting time at the BP monitoring station. Some people had to repeat this process and some were sent home due to high BP.

Emily: We were there [at Pasig Elementary School] for 4 hours maybe, because of the number of people. I think one of the things that prolonged the process was we had to fill out forms again at the venue when we already filled out the same forms online. We were asked the same questions in an interview which we already answered in the online questionnaire.

Photo from ABS-CBN News

What can be improved?

Gracia: A lot. The whole process. Palengke talaga ang palakad. They talked to people like they’re barkers. The frontliners at the Placido del Mundo Elementary School should be given a primer on customer care.

Jar: Provide clearer guidelines on the requirements [to Quezon City residents], and do initial screenings more efficiently so that wait time is shortened for everyone. The person behind me in the queue didn’t get vaccinated after waiting for 3 hours because she had a Hepatitis vaccine less than a month ago. She argued that she declared this from the beginning but she was still allowed to proceed. Also, don’t bother giving food anymore. The intention is good, but this is a big no-no since it would tempt people to remove their mask. You won’t need to feed anyone if wait time is short anyway. Also, put more signs on where to go next.

Kelly: Nothing. Kudos to everyone in the SM Aura vaccination site of Taguig.

Marco: Referencing back to my answer in question #1, [the City of Manila] could most definitely improve on the scheduling of the vaccination. Since there was already pre-registration, they could have organized it so as to have a proper and exact time and day when a person would get vaccinated.

Norman: With regards to the online sign-up process [in Pasig City], an email confirmation or verification that you have signed up will at least help assure the people that the registration was accepted and done successfully. Otherwise, people might get anxious not knowing if they will be notified or not.

Chuchi: I did not see anything wrong with the process [in Pasig City] but I think they should be strict with the social distancing since most of the senior citizens are not that aware of this protocol.

Stonibert: What I could suggest is [for Pedro Guevarra High School, in San Nicolas, Manila] to have separate areas for the BP testing, doctor’s consult, vaccination, and rest areas.  This way, there’s no crowding and better social distancing measures can be observed.

Joaquin: [For Quezon City] the app shouldn’t have been used solely to schedule vaccinations. It should have also included that questionnaire so as to minimize all of the paper production, distribution and collection. It would be better and more efficient if the QR code can simply be scanned to generate answers to the pre-vaccination questions.

Evelyn: [Ang mga seniors] gusto laging nag-uunahan, may sisingit. “Bakit ako walang ganito-ganyan?” Feeling privileged, nasanay na palagi na una sa line for senior citizen discount. For instance, there was this man near us at the waiting area who was hyper, flustered, angry. He kept saying, “Wala namang sistema! Ang gulo-gulo, walang proseso!” The reason for his anger? He wanted to be first in line and he thought tuturukan agad tapos uwian na. Then later on he said, “Paano ko papasa nyan sa BP station eh ayan na-high blood na ko!” Maiwasan na lang sana yung mga singit-singit, nambubulyaw ng frontliners. Very unbecoming of seniors.