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Fears of catching the virus is one’s everyday companion… perhaps dulled only by the promise of vaccines and a better normal on the horizon

At the tail-end of yet another Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila, I hadn’t left my home since the major lockdown began two weeks prior. Admittedly, cabin fever had set in every now and then, which is par for the course of pandemic life. Besides my regular consumption of shows on Netflix, there was little to look forward to – except, of course, my vaccine appointment.

Arranged by our company, I had gotten a slot for a jab at Solaire. Today was my second dose and needless to say, I was more than excited to get it done. Before arriving at the Solaire-ICTSI Foundation Inc. Vaccination Centre (SIVC3), I received an e-mail, SMS, and an eZConsult app notification for my appointment at 8:00am.

Upon arrival, there was an orderly queue to enter the building. SIVC3, for those who are unfamiliar, is set up at The Theatre at Solaire. Once bustling with plays and concerts, it now provisionally houses an uber-efficient vaccination hub. After the regular temperature check by the entrance, I proceeded to the second-floor lobby.

The way towards the vaccination area itself was earmarked by clear signs and attendants guiding the queue. All I had to present was a QR code (sent together with the e-mail I received beforehand) and a valid government ID. Cleared by the staff, I went up the escalators to make my way to the main theatre lobby. Memories of exciting events past crossed my mind, immediately cut short as the sight of multiple registration counters greeted my eye.

 

A kind lady ushered me to Counter 11 where my ID and QR were checked once more. They asked me a few questions to verify my identity. After which, I was instantly guided to a vaccination booth; here I thought it was time to bring out the book I brought to pass the waiting time.

I was asked to sit inside a cubicle designated to me. There, my QR code and ID were scanned again. Once verifications were done, the nurse asked a few health questions including which was my dominant arm – the injection would be administered to the contrary. The jab itself was honestly quick and painless; as they would say ‘parang kagat lang ng langgam (just like an ant’s bite)’. The nurse was thoughtful enough to show me the empty syringe and explained in detail a few symptoms I could expect afterwards.

Since I’m asthmatic, I was required to stay for a minimum of 15 minutes post-jab. I was directed to the ‘observarion area’ where doctors were continually making rounds. I chose a chair among the many lined-up - all amply distanced from one another. There, I finally got to read my book. Although after just a few pages, my time was already up.

For those who wanted to mark the momentous occasion, a simple backdrop/photobooth stood tall by the exit. Despite masks and face shields, I could see the smiles of those happy to get their vaccine. Donning peace signs and finger hearts at the camera, they gave their best pose, in true Pinoy fashion. For a moment, I identified with them, thinking to myself “what a happy day”.

The experience was as breezy and comfortable as any vaccine appointment could be—that, of course, isn’t something everyone is able to say. In a time when our daily lives are held as collateral for a better future, there’s definitely a lot to want. Most of which is security, in every sense of the term. To be granted such an opportunity was no doubt a gift – a blessing in a time when hope can be far and few between. 

A successful second dose was a step closer to normalhood. I looked back at the Solaire building as we drove away but, in my mind, a faint voice beckoned: “although we’re making good progress, it seems we’re still leaps and bounds away from the finish line”.