I thought it would be months before I felt the momentary prick of a vaccination needle in my arm, the only way out of the seemingly never-ending pandemic.
Vaccines protecting against COVID-19 are not yet widely available in Thailand. Our school helped teachers register weeks ago, but we did not expect anything to come of it for a while. Rightfully, older individuals and those with underlying health conditions are first in line. I hoped for a dose but didn't expect one.
Without prior notice, I was mid-lesson on Tuesday when a teacher popped into my classroom to announce that the bus was waiting to take us to the hospital for vaccination. Ultimately, I missed the bus, which was not willing to wait for me to retrieve my passport from my apartment, necessary identification for anything official. I caught a ride on the back of another teacher's motorbike, and we hurried after it. I knew there were limited doses and did not want to miss this opportunity that might not come again for months.
At the hospital, we found our place in line behind many other people anxiously waiting, hoping. With the help of patient staff and others in line who spoke a little English, I made it through the paperwork and questionnaires, which were all in Thai. My height, weight, and blood pressure were measured as I was shuffled through various stations. Eventually, I was guided into a seat in a long row of spaced chairs where, before I had time to process the enormity of what was happening, I was vaccinated.
With a Band-Aid and a congratulatory sign, I was moved to observation, where we all sat for 30 restless minutes before being released. Aside from a little fatigue, I did not experience any side effects.
I have received the first dose of the Sinovac vaccine and am scheduled to receive the second one in August. This will offer me some protection as I continue to teach everyday and when I travel back to the United States at the end of my contract. While it is still necessary to take every precaution to protect myself and those around me, I am appreciative for this bit of relief, to Thailand for making vaccination available to foreigners, and to my school for securing me a dose.
The path out of this pandemic is still long, but finally, there is an end in sight.