Captain Caveman woke up early on Thursday 17th June and was off to Phong Nha early because he’d been told he would be getting his second Corona vaccine today. I was also excited because Captain Caveman’s boss, Chau, had kindly added me to the list for my first jab. I made sure my phone was on, that I’d had a banana for breakfast, got my mask, hand sanitizer, water, emergency Fox’s glacier mints and was ready to walk the 10 minutes to the pick up point to join the Oxalis bus.
While I waited for the call I read an interesting article about the concern over visa extensions and the recent issues expats were facing:
https://e.vnexpress.net/news/news/expats-fret-as-vietnam-tightens-visa-policies-4290502.html
It was also good news to read an article about the encouraging of tourist businesses to register for the Corona vaccine:
https://vietnamnews.vn/life-style/975444/travel-enterprises-support-governments-vaccine-efforts.html
At 8am Captain Caveman tried to call me on Messenger but he forgot that while he was walking away from the office to get on the bus that he was going away from the WiFi and so it wouldn’t connect. I got my stuff together and tried to set off but then he rang again, it still wouldn’t connect, I tried to call back. When he called me on the normal phone number it was to tell me he had set off and now I was wasting valuable minutes in setting off to meet the Oxalis staff bus. It was hot already and the walk felt hard work, after just over 10 minutes I was nearing the road, I saw the bus approaching and flagged it down. I was glad of the Aircon and a comfy seat, having only just made it. We went to a hospital in Dong Hoi, but not the main Kuba hospital and we had to get a form to complete. This involved a lot of pushing, shoving and fighting over pens which were attached to the kiosk or small table, I wish I’d took my own to make it easier. Captain Caveman completed both of our forms, which I then had to push in to sign and get a read stamp on my arm from the no-nonsense lady at the kiosk. Next we went to the main entrance of the hospital, it was very busy and we had to wait for staff who spoke better English so that they could go in with me. When Thin, the vice director, arrived we went through to the next section which was undercover but outside and I had to fill in more forms which I was helped with. Captain Caveman was told that his name wasn’t down for his second jab so he couldn’t get it and he was disappointed. I gave him my bag, which was a mistake, and went in to what I thought was a small vaccination room. There was about 6 vaccinators at tables then about 30 people sat waiting. I had to be asked some questions about my health and medication, had my heart listened to and my blood pressure taken then moved to the next table where I sat on a small (not very robust) plastic stool. I chose to give my left arm as I knew it might feel painful the next day and I faced the wall, didn’t look and willed myself not to faint.
There was no time or room for fainters and I later translated the list of observations the medical staff were waiting to see, one of the adverse reactions was fainting. I didn’t want to end up on a ward and on a drip because of being a fainter so I sat on a crowded bench opposite a rotating ceiling fan and messed with my shoe laces so that the blood could rush back to my head. I desperately wanted the water and a glacier mint but they were outside and we had to keep our masks on, anyway. By 9.20am I had experienced my first Astra Zeneca vaccination and it was good to see a lot of people wanting to get the jab, including the Vietnamese army who stood patiently waiting to roll up their uniform sleeve. We ended up waiting 40 minutes in the observation section and I realised that, as the only westerner, I had been prioritised ahead of others, including the boss. He asked me if I was ok and I said I was fine, I thanked him for letting me get the jab too as I was extremely grateful. We could expect to have the second vaccine by the end of July, which was great news. One of the staff had a high temperature and so she was sent to sit with us to cool down but they checked her a few more times, with different machines, then told her she couldn’t be vaccinated. I got my certificate and went outside to Captain Caveman, water and mints at last, then told him to see if he could take the girl’s place for his jab – they wouldn’t let him. Back on the bus I felt fine and was super pleased with myself for not fainting. I was dropped back off at the road and the walk home in the hot sun was a relentless one which I felt took way beyond the almost 12 minutes to walk home

Photo credit – Thin, Oxalis.

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