What you need to know about getting vaccinated

Rachel Hermosura, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 17 2021 11:35 PM

The writer receives a COVID-19 vaccine dose in Valenzuela City. Rachel Hermosura, ABS-CBN News

It still feels surreal to be writing this, but I finally received my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on April 15, more than a year since the pandemic broke.

For months we have worked on stories on the development of COVID-19 vaccines. The president himself had long pinned his hopes on the vaccines to get us out of the pandemic misery. But I did not expect the vaccine to roll out this soon to non-health workers. Yet here we are, in our barangay's multi-purpose hall, getting the shot.

I've lived in Valenzuela City for nearly 21 years, in a household where three out of four have at least one comorbidity, while the remaining one is a senior citizen. I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes a few years ago, but all things considered, I am the least at risk out of us four. I also happen to be the one who went out a lot, mainly for work and for errands.

BEFORE THE JAB: REGISTRATION

Which is why I quickly signed up as soon as Valenzuela City opened its registration for vaccination.

The registration process is simple enough if you know your way around a smartphone and if you already have ValTrace - the contact tracing system that generates a unique QR code required when entering all establishments in Valenzuela City.

To register, you need to login to valtrace.appcase.net with your ValTrace account, click the 'Vaccination Registration' button, answer a few questions on your health condition, take a picture of a government-issued ID, and submit your data privacy consent.

I never gave the registration much thought since then. Valenzuela City, after all, had announced that its vaccine orders are expected to arrive in the second half of 2021. I also know that once the vaccines arrive, health care workers will be prioritized, which was followed for the most part.

BEFORE THE JAB: GETTING THE APPOINTMENT

On April 5, I received the city's notice of my appointment date for vaccination. I am the first — and so far the only one in our household — to get the notice. I've been qualified as a person with comorbidity, the notice said, and that I would get the CoronaVac vaccine from Sinovac. Similar notices were also delivered to other residents starting that day.

The appointment letter contained the date, time and venue of my vaccination, plus a reminder to wear a mask and a face shield, to be there 15 minutes before schedule, and to bring my ValTrace QR code and the letter itself. There was also a list of requirements I have to bring too, which could be any of the following:

  • Medical certificate issued by a doctor in the last 18 months
  • Prescription for medicines issued in the last 6 months
  • Hospital records, medical abstract or discharge summary
  • Surgical records and pathology reports

Days later, I received a text and a call from the City Health Office, basically informing me of the same thing. The representative who called me encouraged me to ask questions, which I did except for her name.

I was excited about getting my first shot, but as days went on, doubts started creeping in. What if I wait for another vaccine with higher efficacy rate? Will the vaccine from Sinovac really work? It did not help that China's health official essentially admitted that CoronaVac had a relatively low efficacy.

I couldn't sleep the night before my appointment with these questions still in my head. I had to go back to why I should get the jab in the first place. I am at risk of COVID-19 because I had diabetes. Sure, I can choose to wait for another vaccine brand, but supplies are scarce. And as someone who went out often due to necessity, I am putting my entire family at risk every time I stepped outside the house.

Getting vaccinated should be an easy choice for me to take, given my circumstances. I also thought about the point many doctors emphasized in several webinars and interviews: the best vaccine one can get is the vaccine that is here now.

All I needed to do, literally, was to show up.

D-DAY: GETTING THE FIRST DOSE

Despite not having enough sleep, I was in the venue ten minutes before my vaccination appointment. But before I got started, I was first told to wash my hands before entering the venue.

After that, I had to present my appointment letter and signed a sheet confirming my attendance. Along with a dozen others, I had to wait, as people from City Hall tweaked the layout of the vaccination area. It took 33 minutes before the next steps started, which proceeded in a breeze.

There were four stops in the vaccination venue. The first one was the Registration Validation Area. This is where I had to present my ValTrace QR code and answer brief questions such as if I were pregnant, was allergic to vaccines or had a swab test recently. After that, I was given a health checklist and a screening form that I should hand over to the doctor who will screen me soonest.

Next stop: the Counseling Area, where I was handed a list of possible side effects from the vaccine. Here, I also took time to read before signing a waiver clearing the city government of liability as a result of my vaccination and a data privacy consent form that allows my city to process my personal data for follow-ups.

Third stop is the Screening and Vaccination Area where I had my blood pressure, temperature, pulse and oxygen level checked and a quick health assessment. The doctor on site told me about possible side effects (fever and rashes, for example) and what medicines I can take as remedies (paracetamol and cetirizine, respectively).

Finally, vaccination time. The nurse let me choose which arm would get the jab, presented the vial and the expiry date of my vaccine (mine expires on 2024), and asked me if I'd like someone to take pictures of my vaccination. It was quick and almost painless.

I was also given a vaccination passport, which contains the details of my first dose and the date of my next dose. I asked if I will still be given another appointment letter from City Health Office for my second dose and if the date is final. The nurse said I will get a letter and the date of my second dose is pretty much set, though the venue of vaccination might change.

I proceeded to the final stop: the Post-Vaccination Area. Here, they checked my vital signs every 15 minutes. Three blood pressure monitors were working at any given time, which posed as a problem at that time since more than a dozen were already inoculated. Ushers also gave away free bottled water while we killed time in the area.

For the final check of my vital signs, I was asked if I was nauseous or felt uncomfortable. Other than my left arm feeling heavy, I was feeling OK so far. If ever I felt anything serious I was told to contact our City Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit at 137-160. Game over. I could go home.

At all points of the vaccination process, there was an usher ready to assist in case you get confused or overwhelmed. Despite the initial delay in starting the vaccination and clogging at the post-vaccination area, the process was efficient, overall.

Hours after the jab, I had a headache and my left arm felt heavy and sore, with the pain radiating on my back. Personally I felt this was a small price to pay for what the vaccine can give me: less chance of getting a severe case of COVID-19 and less chance of getting killed by it. And yes, I am already looking forward to getting my second dose next month.

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Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.