Reading in the newspaper that the vaccine was ready for distribution was news that I was delighted to read in an otherwise distressing year. Surprisingly, everyone around me did not share the same joy. I can understand their scepticism; Even though a person takes the vaccine, he/she still need to wear a mask, and if they are travelling internationally, he/she still need to quarantine. Basically, he will need to take all the precautions that a non-vaccinated person takes. "Then why should I take a vaccine that was developed in an unusually small duration!" my friends said rhetorically.
I realised this mindset was more common when a sheet was passed around my office to document how many of my colleagues were vaccinated. But I had made up my mind about getting vaccinated. My wife Jacqueline (name changed) and I were soon taking an international trip to India to meet our family, and it was better to feel safe than sorry.
Bahrain, the country that I reside in, was one of the first countries to launch a digital COVID-19 "vaccine passport" named BeAware. We both had to download the app and register ourselves. Following this, we had to request an appointment to get the vaccine. Jacqueline registered only two weeks later because she was getting an official document renewed. At the time I registered, only two vaccines were available - Sinopharm, the vaccine developed in China. And Comirnaty, a vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech. For no particular reason, I decided to go with the former. Even the doctor I consulted did not have a comment on which vaccine could be more effective.
The date of my vaccine appointment came in just two days. I was informed to be present at a government health centre in two days, where I was supposed to get the first dose. I cannot say I was not surprised by the amount of time it took to get an appointment. Some of my friends who had registered before me were still waiting for their date, and here I was, a person who got his call in just two days.
On the day of the appointment, I reached the health centre right on time. As is the norm in government hospitals across Bahrain, the place was well-maintained, and cleanliness was a top priority. The nurses made me and the other vaccine applicants wait and socially distance ourselves while waiting for the vaccine. After waiting for about ten minutes, I given the first dose. While leaving, the officials reiterated that I have to follow the same social distancing measures to prevent infection from the coronavirus. After 21 days, the same scenario played out when I came to take my second dose of the vaccine.
Following the reports that I had read online, I was expecting some side effects. But, both the times, to my luck, I did not face any severe side effects, except for a minimal case of loose motion.
By the time my wife’s official document was renewed, the Indian vaccine Covishield had arrived in Bahrain. I sensed the patriotism in all the Indians, who were now rushing to get the vaccine. Not so long ago, these were the people who were sceptical about getting a vaccine. Jacqueline, along with our fellow Indians, decided to take the Covidshield vaccine. Albeit, it was not out of patriotism, but because the appointment dates were sooner. Delay in getting an appointment was more frequent now because more people had changed their mind about the vaccine and had begun registering. They came up with witty explanations on why they changed their minds, but I personally think it’s because of the new policies at some workplaces. You see, some companies in Bahrain have given their employees an ultimatum - either get vaccinated or submit an RT-PCR test twice a month. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the more feasible option.
After Jacqueline got her first dose, she started experiencing some side effects. This was expected. My friends who had taken the first dose had complained about fever and body pain. The medical expert who vaccinated my wife warned her about the side effects and recommended that she take Paracetamol if the symptoms appear. True to their word, the side effects started showing in about 5 to 6 hours and persisted for almost 30 hours. Currently, she is waiting for the second dose which is given on the 28th day after the first dose.
All in all, I’m glad of our decision to take the vaccine. I keep hearing rumours that one might need to take the vaccine to travel internationally. If that becomes a compulsion, I’m glad we both took the step and got one step closer to home.
The article has been written in first-person point of view based on the inputs received from the beneficiary.