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The Pfizer vaccine, Dis-Chem & 2 ½ hours of positivity

People are scared. This is clearly evident in the concerned conversations, subtle stigmatisation, bold bravado and obsession with stats and news.

The community chant that 2021 could only be better than 2020 has not turned out to be so. Throw the PEPUDA Amendment Bill and the POPi Act into the mix, and life is shrouded in fear and anxiety; uncertainty is the air we breathe and caution is our wake-up call.

Sadness and loss have touched us all in one way or another.

South Africans also tend to be complainers, with negativity running a close second. (I am not denying that there is much we could legitimately complain about). We are weary, fed up and disheartened. Alarmist theorists and scaremongering voices are loud and prominent, threading their way into our psyche.

IG moments of filtered positivity rarely translate into daily life.

And so the news that I was now eligible to register for the COVID vaccine brought a welcome distraction and a rare sense of empowerment - I was part of something bigger in a context that has, for months, restricted many freedoms and habits.

Of course, opinions ran high as to what to expect. (As I said, South Africans tend to be negative and skeptical). But we soldiered on with the process, undeterred.

Our reward was 2 ½ hours of surprising positivity.

Yes, there were queues and forms to fill in and waiting for OTP numbers. But once that was sorted - thanks to the patient Dis-Chem staff and recruits - we were ushered into a waiting area. Everything was orderly, streamlined and organised.

And suddenly, in a world that had become so insular and isolated, we were not alone.

There was a silent connection and unspoken camaraderie - socially distanced, of course - among the 50 or so waiting in the queue. We were all here to do our bit in the fight against a common enemy. People from all walks of life and various ethnicities smiled comfortingly at one another from behind their masks; strangers connected by a common goal and duty.

As I sat in the queue, reflecting on the situation, I could only be in awe of this moment in history. A vaccine was here - something we were told would probably not be possible for years at the beginning of the COVID-19 global invasion. And yet here we sat, less than 18 months later, recipients of a vaccine that has the potential to protect us, our communities and loved ones. It was a moment of humble hope, marvelling at the commitment, across the world, of medical scientists, doctors and researchers who stood together - for humanity - because life is precious and we do all we can to preserve it.

After a 2 hour wait - I advise you take a book - and shuffling chair positions every 10 minutes, we were ushered into the vaccination hall. It was light and bright - a space charged with positive anticipation. Despite my fear of needles, (I did suggest that they should consider playing relaxing classical music), Sister Leticia reassured me and chatted to me kindly, as if I was her favourite patient.

After the jab - (not that sore) - we were moved to the 15 minute waiting area for them to monitor that we presented with no allergic reaction. Once again, it was manned by a kind Dis-Chem recruit who, if he could, would have given us a gold star.

You almost felt in sync with people’s relaxed breathing.

It was done. Time to take the photo or selfie.

This was a moment to be preserved and to be proud of.

Perhaps, in this small way, I have become a part of the solution to overcoming this scourge. One less COVID bed needed in hospital, one less person critically affected, one less casualty. Yet despite these achievements in modern medicine and the fact that the vaccines have been rigorously tested and approved - across the world - many seem reluctant to get vaccinated, rather succumbing to conspiracy theories or taking their chances on some hopeful outlier.

Surely now is the time to join the queue and be part of the growing number of vaccinated individuals so that we can emerge from this scourge and begin some semblance of ‘normality’ again? We may have had a faulty start to the rollout of the vaccinations and still be far behind many other countries, but we have made a start and it is a good one.

I’ve been vaccinated! And for me, it was definitely a moment of positivity and gratitude.


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