I took my parents to get a COVID vaccine. Here is what to expect….and feel
A silver lining (if one can call it that) in the ongoing devastation by the COVID pandemic, is the vaccine. Thanks to swift actions by NCOC, more than 3 million Pakistanis have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine. Now everyone over 30 is eligible for one. The dark clouds might be yawning away to make room for the sun, finally.
These new concepts are so ‘mainstream’ now that the upcoming cohort of CSS aspirants might just be scavenging their daily dose of newspapers for updates on these.
When the news of AstraZeneca’s possible links to deadly blood clots first came out, our worst nightmare till date was realized. Even my sister, a US based doctor, was hesitant to get her Pfizer shot. Ironically, it was my mother – from a generation that has a peculiar repulsion to anything ‘modern science’- who insisted that she must. That’s when it dawned on me. We would do anything for a chance to protect our loved ones. It wasn’t just a moral imperative, it came out of nowhere.
Maybe we all had enough of the spectatorship of suffering around us that we let our guards down this time. My mum slept better when my sister had been vaccinated. Did she really believe in the efficacy of the vaccine? And so much so as to disregard the risks and rumors building around it? I doubt that.
Trip Down The Vaccine Lane
For many educated middle class parents, the term ‘vaccine’ first entered their vernacular when their kids were born and stern doctors would hand them a card with all the diseases mentioned on it that their babies need to be vaccinated against. Hepatitis, Polio, Tuberculosis, you name it. My generation would remember the polio vaccine drives in our locality, and the barrage of ads on PTV that highlighted the Polio campaign in the early 2000s. My parents made sure to meet all the vaccine appointments and check all the boxes on our health cards.
Convincing The Parents
When the NCOC announced that anyone over 50 is now eligible for a vaccine, I jumped to get my parents registered by dialing 1166. The process is pretty swift but I am talking from a privileged position here. My parents had their CNICs, something we take for granted in this country.
Anyways, when it came to getting her own shot, my mum showed a weird sort of vaccine hesitancy. It wasn’t that she believed in some silly conspiracy theory that the government – in collaboration with Bill Gates – is putting microchips into our bloodstreams through vaccines to control us; it was Ramzan and she just couldn’t be bothered to go.
Now getting her out of the house was as hard as getting the BBC to criticise Israel.
At The Vaccination Centre
We drove to Expo Centre, Lahore – the nearest covid vaccination centre to us. My parents in a state of angsty anxiousness. We went up to the registration desk and showed them a 4-digit code we had received upon registration. They gave us a printout and asked us to wait in a separate waiting area. 15 mins later, we were let into the hall where vaccinations were taking place.
There are five possible Covid vaccines you might receive as these have been approved by Pakistan: Sinopharm, Cansino, Sinovac, Sputnik and AstraZeneca.
They told us to come again for the final dose 28 days later and off we left. I actually felt my parents have just been given another lease on life. Now it was I who would sleep better.
As I looked around me in the waiting area I saw many families, from all social stratas, waiting for the same injection as we were. They said this disease was a great equalizer. Well that might not be completely true when some countries are literally coming up with lottery schemes to convince their populations to get vaccinated whilst others like ours are struggling with vaccine shortages. But looking around me then and there, I did feel a universal comradery with young people who accompanied their aging parents in that centre.
The Circle Of Life?
As I mentally prepare my mum and dad for their upcoming second dose and the potential side effects they will experience (nausea, fever, flu, and body pain) I wonder if tables have indeed turned; if this is what coming full circle means; a new normal where young healthy kids rush to protect their parents against novel viruses this world throws out in coming decades?
Is this cyclical helplessness to battle the onset of their mortality here to stay?
The thought makes me panicky and mournful. But I know, after witnessing the scenes at the vaccination centre, my fellow young comrades will be there with me in this new struggle. And as for the more spiritual amongst us, they will find solace in the fact that after all, what is living if not a busy adjournment of dying?