Crowds and getting the first vaccine done

I woke up at 2:00am yesterday to line up for my first COVID-19 vaccine shot. The whole process took 7 hours spent mostly waiting in line on a dark street corner with close to a thousand other people.

I arrived at the vaccination site at 2:30am and found the line has already turned a corner from the entrance. This meant at least 100 people have lined up earlier (I found out I was the 221st person in line). I’ve put myself at the last line and a few minutes after, two more people went behind me. Then another two people. Within two hours, the line doubled in size.

People have new ways of killing time while in line. Most of us brought our phones to read social media (which is normal behavior these days). Some were playing games and others were catching up on their streaming shows. Those who lined up with companions spent the time the old-fashioned way by talking endlessly. This pandemic can keep Filipinos separate but it cannot keep them from talking to each other about anything under the sun. Some were complaining about the line while others were making fun of our situation.

We, as a people, have also made the new health protocols as a practice of theater. Social distancing was only observed after the local government officials stepped in and checked before someone else took pictures of the said line. Everyone kept their masks on while in line (which was good enough for me), but the face shield (a thin plastic sheet covering your face and was required outside of residence) proved to be too inconvenient and most people wore them over their heads. I personally found the use of face shield to be symbol of this precaution theater (low cost and questionable value-add).

The vaccination site started to open their doors at 6:30 that morning, most of us who were in line for several hours have the same sleepy look on our faces. Some have started to check their documents. We only needed an ID and a QR code. True enough for people subjected to more than usual red tape all our lives, some brought more proof than required. The vaccination staff (doctors and nurses) arrived shortly and began to settle in.

Crowd control in the vaccination site was well-organized and there were enough personnel to direct the people where to line up next and keep our distance from one another. Not much talking, just point and check. Finally they let us go upstairs where the chairs are setup and where the staff were waiting for us. The line was processed in batches of 12 people, avoiding crowding at the vaccination stations. There were three stations: one for identity verification (using the QR code earlier), another for the vaccine administration (which was done by two staff members), and an observation area just in case there were side-effects right after the dose. A staff member reminded us of our next dose one month after.

I eventually finished at 9:30, seven hours after I stood in line. To celebrate, I immediately lined up to buy food at the nearest Jollibee.

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