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My first jab

I assure you I did not jump the line. But I got my first jab a few days ago as an ordinary senior citizen of Parañaque. It came as a pleasant surprise, sooner than I thought, because I knew that the priority were the frontliners — and rightly so.

I got a late evening message from our efficient village coordinator for senior concerns Florencia Umali to go to the Mary Help of Christian vaccination site in Barangay Don Bosco at 8 o’clock the very next morning — with my IDs, face mask, face shield, ballpen, water. My local government had surprised us all by being the first known local government unit (LGU) to call the second priority group for the vaccine as early as last week. A friend from another barangay even received her message on a Sunday for a Monday appointment. How impressive can that get?

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It was a long four hours’ wait, but I came prepared for it. I brought enough reading materials so that while we were in a comfortable, orderly queue seated on monobloc chairs, we were just seemingly playing musical chairs as we moved closer to the front of the line. It was well organized, except that there were times I did not find the chairs socially distanced enough, and told the marshals so. I also could not understand why some felt it was fine to just cut in, and had to be reminded that that was my seat they were taking.

I overheard someone say she needed a ballpen, and I was ready to say, in case she tried to borrow mine, that it had just run out of ink. I was taking no risks.

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A physician from the barangay tried to make the wait less stressful by speaking on a PA system that was too loud, which only disturbed my reading. He was recounting successful vaccine stories and how the mind can control one’s sense of wellbeing. He meant well, but I was more intent on reading the Time magazine issue on “The Vaccine Revolution”, so that anyone could ask me right then what the siblings DNA and RNA did and what mRNA is all about (forgotten knowledge already as of this writing).

It became clear to me the seemingly sudden appearance of COVID-19 vaccines on the scene, and why the alleged haste in their development was not true at all. All the work for the available vaccines, without exception, had years of rigorous research behind them. While they were meant for other diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s, the thrusts of such studies shifted to the pandemic as demand dictated. With the financial support these studies received, manufacturing and trials became possible.

Of course, I had cold feet about the vaccine, but thoughts of the virus and intubation were more horrifying. It was for me also about heeding the counsel of Dr. Anthony Fauci of the United States’ National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (Yes, IATF, science rules and not off and on lockdowns) to take the first available vaccine—AstraZeneca in my case—for one’s health security and as an act of good citizenry. Something I owe fellow Filipinos.

A few days after my jab, I am alive and well.

I do not know why I decided on a photo shoot when my turn came. The kind gentleman who said he would do it was called first, so I had to ask a doctor instead. My own administering doctor had just prepared the syringe and the vial and, bless her soul, she told me there was no time to waste because the vaccine was ready and could not wait.

But what I thought was an insignificant event that I eventually posted on FB, to credit Mayor Edwin Olivarez and Dante Pacheco and the Parañaque LGU officials, was heralded and envied by so many. I suddenly felt like a vaccine spokesperson with the many inquiries I received—and the 356-plus likes on the post. (If only my books posts went that way, too.)

It is a sad commentary that a simple act due a citizen would appear to be a big deal. And that this vaccine rollout of my LGU should lead other senior citizens from other cities to wonder how and when their turn would come. It also showed the great need for LGUs to communicate better with their constituents who are left wondering what to do next to keep safe in this crisis. Is there a hotline that someone will pick up? Our faith in government needs to be restored somehow.

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But thank you, Parañaque, for taking the lead. Never mind that these were extra vaccines we got that day. At least, they did not go to waste.

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Neni Sta. Romana Cruz ([email protected]) is founding director of the creative writing center Write Things, and was former chair of the National Book Development Board.

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TAGS: Commentary, COVID-19 Vaccination, Neni Sta. Romana Cruz
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