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  • Writer's pictureBy CJ Urquico

I got my first-ever vaccine

It took just a little bit of convincing before I decided to get the Covid shot. I was worried that I would be taking it away from an elderly or a health professional, so I was initially reluctant to go. After reassuring people with MPH and PHDs, I booked my appointment via Eventbrite.

There's that part of our culture of listening to our elders. Plus, I can't keep telling people that I am totally about everyone getting shots if I don't do it when the opportunity allows.

So on Jan. 26, I made my way to the University of Guam Field House to get Pfizer. I pre-filled out the CDC form, psyched up, and got ready to go.

A checkpoint with soldiers was up ahead. I presented my CDC form. The Guardsman said, no, we need your online appointment email.

Searching for it and turning up with nothing, I asked if I could pull over to the parking lot to let the more organized Guamanians, already four cars deep, to go ahead. He advised me to search for Eventbrite, a ticketing site that did the booking confirmation.

Voila, there it was. I am through to the next stage.

On Sunday, Jan. 4, my mom asked me to drive her to American Medical Clinic to get the shot. She received the Moderna vaccine. My 12-year-old daughter, Jia, who still gets vaccinations, adorably said, "Momma, that's how it feels; it's supposed to hurt."

My mom experienced some of the reported side effects. Tylenol helped, she said. She is fine now, and I feel she is more protected from Covid-19, which is all I wanted.

My late grandmother raised me until I was seven. She was the original anti-vaxxer. Growing up, I caught most childhood diseases that could have been prevented. Polio. Check. Measles, mumps, and chickenpox. Affirmative. Someone, please shoot me up with the smallpox vaccine. Seriously.

Before she passed on in 2019, I visited her in Waikiki and told her that the reason I have a limp and a significantly absent-from-leg day— the right leg — was because of polio. It was confirmed by a renowned Orthopedic surgeon from St. Luke's in Manila.

My grandmother believed that I got a limp because a nameless doctor gave the 18-month-old me an injection, which caused my paralysis. I recall a childhood with painful therapy, corrective shoes, a metal leg brace, and being bullied by boys who were not as handsome as me. I learned how to kick them with that metal brace, and after a few bleeding shins, the school prohibited my metal brace.

Back to UOG, the National Guardsmen told me to park near the fieldhouse since I had an Eventbrite ticket. It did feel a bit like a concert, only this one has super-polite, and helpful Guam National Guardsmen, guiding every step of the way.

Temperature check. Hand sanitizer. Our service members actively sanitize every chair, even in a very thin crowd. They told me to sit at chair number one.

Told to proceed to table number two; I went, sat down, and followed the procedure. I presented my expired but valid driver's license and got a chuckle from the screener. After all the questions and notes, if you have asthma, bring your inhaler, in case you have allergic reactions, and if you're pregnant, which is the last question, it may be good to ask before you come for the vaccine.

We chuckled at the part when asked if I was pregnant.

Again, pre-filling out the CDC questionnaire is a waste of time. For now. At this time.

Done with the screening step, I went to the soldier with a blue clipboard, and he pointed in the direction of an open table. The Guardsman, I presume to be a medic, took my paperwork and condensed it into a half-index card-sized shot record.

Private First Class Suzuki said, "Don't worry, everyone keeps telling me that they don't feel a thing. After that, he delivers the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. He was right. I did not feel a damn thing except for the inch and a half long needle in my left arm. It was great.

After that, it's the 15-minute detention to ensure no anaphylactic effects happen. You do not want to lose breathing while driving, so stand by.

Frank from LRC said, "Is hunger a side effect?" He held court with other people in what I have dubbed "detention." I think he may have written at a different time in his slip so he can stay longer. It was a fun sight to see such a smooth flow of people getting protection. I meant inoculation.

"Did you have a good experience today?" asked the officer on my way out the door. Why yes, sir, I did. "Spread the word," he said. I'm doing that right now.

I'll be back in three weeks for my second shot. I'll continue to wear masks and social-distance because I can still get it and share it, though this time, there's a 95 percent chance it will be mild or no symptoms at all.

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