My Covid-19 Vaccination Experience Was Not the Best but I am Still Grateful

My Covid-19 vaccination experience was not as straightforward as I wanted it to be.  But, I am grateful to the health care workers, organizers, and the government for the enhanced immunity and peace of mind that I now have.

I know that the vaccine and its rollout have become hot topics.  I am writing this piece without intending to join the debate.  Rather, I am sharing my experiences so others who are considering getting the vaccine can better prepare.

Me After My First Covid-19 Vaccination Experience
Me After My First Covid-19 Shot

My Special Reasons for Getting Vaccinated

Health and safety are, of course, my main reasons for getting vaccinated. But since I moved to another country on my own, I have special reasons for going through my Covid-19 vaccination experience as well:

  • Peace of mind for my family in other countries. Life is already stressful as it is. I do not want my loved ones to have the added burden of worrying about me.
  • Hope that I can visit my family safely soon without bringing the virus with me. I abandoned my plan to go back to the Philippines in 2020 due to the pandemic. I would love to visit them soon to make sure that they are doing well. However, I do not want to be a carrier.
  • Absence of the care that only loved ones can give. If I get infected, nobody will look after me the way that my loved ones will if I need to self-isolate. The thought itself makes me very sad.

I am sure that each of us have our own reasons behind our decision to get vaccinated or not. But these are on top my list.

Covid-19 Vaccination Experience

Scheduling and Line-up

I work for a food manufacturing company.  Therefore, my colleagues and I are considered “essential workers”.

On March 23, we got an email at work asking us to complete a survey on getting vaccinated.  A few days after, those who stated their agreement to get the Covid-19 vaccine received instructions to get our vaccinations done at our office the coming Saturday.  I cleared my schedule for the vaccination.  Alas, while getting ready to leave my home, I received a call from my manager saying that Fraser Health Authority did not show up.

Shortly after, we received another email and set of instructions from Fraser Health through our management to proceed to a designated vaccination center.  We were told that we will be accommodated when we walk-in in lieu of the botched vaccination plan.  Some of my colleagues were then given a shot without an appointment that Saturday to the workdays after. 

I decided to go the following Friday, Good Friday.  This is to give me time to rest in case I experience discomforts that some of my vaccinated colleagues had.

I arrived at around 10:30 AM, half an hour before the center opens.  I asked the guard at the main door if there are additional instructions for people in my situation, but he did not give me an answer nor refer me to anyone else.  So, I fell in line.  I was probably the 20th person in the lineup.  At around 11:00 AM, the long line already snaked through the parking lot.  There were probably close to a hundred people.  Alas, the center opened at around 11:07 AM.

Covid-19 Vaccination Center in Surrey, BC
Covid-19 Vaccination Center in Surrey, British Columbia

Scheduling Issues

When I was close to the main door, a staff member asked me if I was from a school.  I said I am from a food manufacturing company.  She asked me to step out of the line and moved on.  I thought there were additional instructions as indicated in our email. So, I did as I was told.  She did not make it back when the line moved to let in the next batch in which I was included.  So, I went in.  Alas, 2 staff members pulled me aside.  They said they were sorry, but they can not accommodate me.  After a lengthy discussion as well as phone calls to my manager and their manager, they decided to vaccinate me.  However, I was told to spread the word that anybody else from my company will not be accommodated that day. 

The lack of coordination and communication was a big disappointment to me.  To be clear, I would understand any reason or strategy.  I would have waited for my turn-based on my age and situation.  But I do not understand the changing instructions, ineffective communications, and resulting inconvenience.  This was the low point in my covid-19 vaccination experience.

However, I am still thankful that got my first Covid-19 vaccination that day.  At least I did not have to clear up my schedule for the third time.  Also, I did not have to fall in line after a hundred people while having an appointment schedule on hand as some people did. Of course, I am happy that I will now have the immunity to the dreaded Covid-19.

Sticker To Promote the Covid-19 Vaccination
Sticker To Promote the Covid-19 Vaccination

Completion of Forms

After getting their manager’s approval, I was led back to the entrance to get the required forms.  This part of the process was not as challenging. 

They gave me 3 sheets of paper on a clipboard.  The first form requires basic information such as name, contact information, and health card number.  The second form is a questionnaire about allergies and medical history.  The last one contains tips on Covid-19 Vaccination Aftercare.

We had to fill out the forms while lining up.  This part reminds me of filling out landing forms while staying in line in the airport.  Fortunately, this only took around 5 minutes.

From this point, a staff member assisted us by pointing us to a station.  Again, like an airport staff pointing passengers to the next available immigration officer.  He was very helpful.  He even filled out the part that I missed due to haste and stress.

I only waited for two minutes or so because there was one person ahead of me.

The Usual Summer Scene Prior to the Covid-19 Pandemic

The Vaccination Process

Alas, it was my turn.  The healthcare practitioner verified the information on my forms.  We also discussed how I would know about my schedule for the second shot. Then, she gave me a vaccination card. 

Many of my colleagues said they did not feel the prick at all.  However, someone said she has a bruise on the injection site.  So, I teased the healthcare worker by pleading for her to be nice to me.  It probably worked as I barely felt the needle.

Waiting

After the shot, I proceeded to the waiting area.  The signs say to wait for at least 15 minutes.  This would enable a person to get immediate help in case of adverse reactions.

There was a roving staff member who was surveying whether people plan to wait for 15 or 30 minutes.  I heard her advise an elderly couple to consider waiting for 30 minutes.  She also gave me a sticker as a sign of support for vaccination.

Vancouver TaiwanFest, One of the Many Community Events in Vancouver Prior to the Covid-19 Pandemic

Adverse Reactions

They say that reactions to vaccines are unique to each individual.  Some of my colleagues did not have any reaction.  A few had slight discomfort when lifting the vaccinated arm.  Others felt exhausted or had a slight fever.  A colleague was very sick and nauseous for at least a day.  One was sent to the hospital via 911 as a precaution due to chest pains.  Another felt exhausted for a week then had flu-like symptoms and chest pains on the second week. For most of them, the reaction started around 24 hours after the vaccination.  Some recovered quickly while a very small number had lingering discomforts a few days after. 

I felt very slight tingling and heaviness on the vaccinated arm 30 minutes after the vaccination. However, it only lasted for a couple of minutes. Other than that, I did not feel anything at all.

My colleagues who got their shot on March 27 and 28 were given the Astra Zeneca vaccine.  On March 29, the Canadian government paused the Astra Zeneca vaccination for people under the age of 55.  So, most or all of those who went on Monday onwards got the Pfizer vaccine.

I do not have any medical training.  But it seems that the reactions to the Covid-19 vaccination were not correlated to the brand of vaccine, gender, age or race. 

Precautionary Measures at the Center

The precautionary measures in place gave me a good Covid-19 vaccination experience:

  • A staff member distributes medical masks for people in the line-up.  She requests those wearing a washable face mask to change into a medical mask.
  • As you enter, a staff member requests that you change masks.  They would also facilitate placing sanitizers into your hand for people to avoid touching the sanitizer bottle.
  • A support staff sanitizes the used clipboards.
  • Entry is limited to a few people at a time to allow social distancing.
  • Vaccination stations and seats in the waiting area are at least 6 feet apart.
A View of Vancouver International Airport from a Departing Plane

Tips for a Better Covid-19 Vaccination Experience

Many of my colleagues who went to the vaccination center at around 2:00pm on different days did not have to line up.  I think people flock to the center before opening and create a line up.  Health care workers are then able to catch up after lunch.  

People with appointments were still asked to line up.  I heard the guard say that people in the lineup have appointments.  Some people were not very happy with that.

Dress appropriately in case you need to wait outside.  It was chilly on the day of my vaccination. 

Wear clothing that allows easy access to the arm. The vaccine is injected into the muscle of the arm.

Check out the Covid-19 links in the resources page.

Gratitude

Canada’s Vaccination Performance

Covid-19 vaccination data
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccinations Information Accessed from the Our World in Data on April 15, 2021

This graph shows vaccination information for Canada, 3 other industrialized nations, the world, and my home country for quick comparison only. The Our World in Data website gives great visualization on key Covid-19 metrics such as confirmed cases, case fatality rate, and people fully vaccinated. It incorporates daily updates from countries worldwide.

The Bright Side

Many people will argue against the efficiency of the government in dealing with the pandemic and the vaccination rollout.  But, we are in a better place compared to many other nations for the following reasons:

  • Canada has the capability to purchase vaccines.
  • Our country is huge and is not densely populated.  These allow proper social distancing.
  • It has a great technology infrastructure.  This made the transition to working and studying from home easier. It likewise allows setting up vaccination appointments easier.
  • We are blessed with numerous amazing parks.  The beauty of nature that can be witnessed from our doorstep does wonders to our battered body, mind, and soul.

Despite the mishaps, I am still grateful for my Covid-19 vaccination experience. This gives me and my family a sense of calm. Also, it gives me hope that the happy reunion I am hoping for is not that far into the horizon.

Stay safe.

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