It was finally V-Day! No, no, no, not Valentine’s Day or anything of that nature, Vaccination Day! Dominica has rolled out its COVID-19 vaccination program after receiving 70,000 doses of the Oxford Astra Zeneca COVID-19 vaccine from India in early February. Frontline workers were vaccinated first as well as other priority groups and then from Monday 22nd February, the general public has had the option of receiving the vaccine.
I was ready to receive it as soon as it became available and pre-registered online using a registration link which was circulated on social media. I was hesitant about facing crowds though so instead of going on the very first day, I chose to go on the third day. You may wonder why would there be crowds, with all the anti-vaccination talk floating around, but in true Dominican fashion, what you hear is not necessarily what you’ll observe. The first day the vaccine was available, there were reports from most health care centers where it was being distributed of good turnout. There are seven health districts in Dominica and I belong to the largest one, the Roseau Health District, which serves approximately half of the island’s population. I wanted to be able to get my vaccine and not spend too much time out of work to get it done, and I was not disappointed.
The efficient system for vaccine distribution laid out by the Ministry of Health and executed by the Primary Health Care staff is applaudable. I arrived at the Roseau Health Center in the Botanical Gardens at around 1:45pm. There are two large tents set up outside which are clearly labelled. At the first tent, you have the opportunity to register for the vaccine with one of the attendants present. Although I had pre-registered, I still had to go through this step. Expect to answer basic questions about any allergies you may have or medical conditions you may face. Once you’ve signed your registration form, you move to the tent nearby where seats are available for you to wait. I didn’t even have to wait there because I, along with the small group which was sitting under that tent, were called into the health center facility almost immediately. Once in the facility, you are assisted by Red Cross Volunteers to one of the several rooms designated for giving the vaccine. The medical professionals in these rooms review your form, ask any additional or confirmatory questions they may have and then proceed to administer the vaccine. I’m not scared of needles so this part was easy for me. I understand those with some fear might be apprehensive but the process is so quick that your fear won’t even have a real chance to surface. The nurses administering the vaccines don’t wear gloves but contrary to the school of public opinion, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations do not require gloves to be worn when administering vaccinations, unless persons administering vaccinations have open lesions on their hands! If gloves were worn, they’d have to be changed for each patient and with high numbers of people coming in, it would limit the efficacy of the process.
Once I got vaccinated, I was asked to sit in a separate area of the compound for fifteen minutes where the nursing staff monitor everyone for the appearance of any immediate adverse reactions. Once your fifteen-minute observation period is up, you’re cleared to leave and you receive a card with the date you are to return for your second dose, as well as information about the side-effects you MAY experience. It is advised that you take paracetamol to counter these possible side-effects. I did not hesitate to take two paracetamol tablets just in case! I was done with the entire process by 2:30pm.
It’s almost 24 hours later and I haven’t experienced any side-effects yet apart from some soreness and swelling at the injection site. However, people who are experiencing side-effects shouldn’t see it as a bad thing. Some of us, particularly the younger ones among us, have more robust immune systems and so their reaction to the vaccine is just an indication that the immune system is indeed animatedly structuring its future response to COVID-19 and the vaccine is actually working! Older folks may not experience side-effects of the same severity, and that’s fine too. It’s just further proof that the vaccine is needed to help out those declining immune systems in the face of a real threat down the line.
Overall I’d give the Ministry of Health and the health care workers and volunteers an A++ for a very well thought out vaccine roll-out plan. We tend to criticize our health care system heavily when things go wrong, but we should similarly compliment when things are going well. A vaccination roll-out program for a vaccine which so many were skeptical about needs to be efficient, the staff needs to be friendly, knowledgeable and approachable and the strategy has to reflect the needs of the population. The Ministry of Health and specifically the Primary Health Care teams and the Expanded Programme on Immunization Manager have definitely gotten it right!
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