The vaccine is finally here, and although the roll out of Down Under is slower than expected, thousands of Australians are now vaccinated every day. And yet, many of us still have questions about when and how we’re going to receive our jab. Analyzing reports of side effects and complications, obscured statistics, and color-coded infographics is enough to confuse anyone, but none of it tells you what the injection really looks like. Two of our writers recently received the jab – here’s what it really looks like.
Divya Venkataraman, Food and Beverage Editor
Or: NSW Health Vaccination Center at Sydney Olympic Park, 1 Figtree Drive, Sydney
Tales of this near-mythical place had traveled from Homebush to reach my ears long before I made my vaccine appointment. I had heard that it was gigantic, brand new and above all ruthlessly effective. You don’t have to go to a vaccination center to get your vaccine – you can book an appointment for a vaccine at some local GPs, hospital, or other listed centers. here. But I wanted to see what it was about.
This sterilized medical utopia is about a 40-minute drive from the CBD, depending on the time of day you’re visiting. You can also take the train or the bus. I drove, parked my car at a dedicated facility which is about a ten minute walk from the current hub (there is a closer parking lot for people with accessibility needs).
Following the signs from the car park to the hub is quite intuitive. Upon arrival, you are invited to scan the code that was provided to you when booking for an appointment. Friendly staff then guide you to a set of machines that spit out a number (like the RTA, or a deli counter. Mmm, cheese). With your number in hand (which like these other vital company functions tells you where you are in the queue) you are taken to a waiting room divided into different ‘groups’ of seats. socially distant. How futuristic. It’s shiny, clean, and yes, huge.
I came armed with two novels, a Sudoku book and the memory of the endless waiting times for specialists. I never seriously tried Sudoku, but figured that, given my previous experiences in the waiting room, I would have plenty of free time to figure it out. How wrong I was. By the time I had wasted ten minutes on Instagram, my number was up. It’s cheese time.
My doctor asked me the same questions I answered online about my medical history, whether I had recently had symptoms, and whether I was taking certain medications. Remember that you cannot get the vaccine if you have had another vaccine (the flu virus, for example) less than 14 days before your appointment. Questions over, he gave me the vaccine in my left arm and sent me back on my way. It didn’t hurt at all, really.
I was then taken (so effective!) To sit in another “pod” for 15 minutes to “watch” for a sudden adverse reaction. Feeling absolutely good, I was on my way then. In total, I was in the vaccination center for about 40 minutes. Peanuts.
People feel the side effects differently, but I hardly felt anything after getting the vaccine except for a few pain in my arm, which was gone by noon. Anecdotally, I’ve heard that the second jab causes more side effects – we’ll see in three weeks when I head into Round II. Next time I think I’ll be safe leaving the Soduku book at home.
Stephen A Russell, Arts Editor
Or: Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Center, 1 Convention Center Pl, South Wharf, Melbourne
As news filtered through that Melbourne was shutting down again, the frosty snap gripping the city cooled a little deeper. But as the Thunderdome descended, there was an unexpected glimmer of hope shining through.
We all need to do our part to protect each other. There was never any doubt in my mind that I would be vaccinated as soon as possible for this very reason. But as a 40-year-old with no underlying health issues, I resigned myself to the wait long enough. And then all of a sudden the Victorian government took matters into their own hands, unexpectedly dropping eligibility down to pick up over 40 people like me. There is another imperative for me to get started. My beloved mother is locked in half the world in Scotland. I am fully aware that the sooner I get vaccinated, the sooner this path home for cuddles might open.
After finally discovering a rather confusing government website and locating the hotline to ring, it imploded that night. Undeterred, I called the next morning and went through, much to my excitement, a hum only partially mitigated by 52 minutes of waiting with terribly painful panpipe music.
It was worth it. The nicest person in the call center walked me through the reservation process, securing a spot two days later at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Center, aka Jeff’s Shed. I woke up stupidly early that day, like a kid on Christmas morning. Pumped up to get my first ride, I was crackling with exciting energy. That cool winter sun seemed to shine a little brighter again, and the chills subsided. It helps that the convention center is on a tree-lined shore next to the graceful old tall ship, the Polly Woodside. I rocked a good hour earlier, and it was a soothing place to pass the time. An impatient beaver, I was heading another 15 minutes earlier and was pleasantly surprised to find a small queue and to be ushered in almost immediately. But not before noticing that, despite the official website suggesting otherwise, there was a walk-in lane.
You better believe my penchant for public service announcements has started. When I was checked in by an extremely friendly receptionist, I checked that people 40 and over could walk. In fact, I checked in with a health practitioner three times as I was directed to the expansive stadium as a conference space beyond. Filled with rows of rows of curtain cabins, it searched the whole world like the old epic sci-fi movies that I love a bit too much.
Yes, yes, yes, it was the choice of everyone I spoke to: walk-in tours for anyone 40 years and over are allowed in Melbourne. Before I even sat down to wait for my turn, I made the call on Facebook. When I was called a few minutes later the nurse was super friendly, informative and soothing. I was really bouncing like a puppy at this point, so much so that she had to remind me to relax and loosen my left arm (twice) ready for an infinitesimal, almost entirely unnoticeable sting. Of course, I had to take a selfie which was added to the Facebook post and then deployed to Instagram and Twitter as well. Friends jumped on it. Several foreigners have done it too. It magnified my happiness: all for one, one for all. The irony is not lost on my tweet “come get your jab” is the one and only time I can truly say that I have gone away from “viral”.
I couldn’t believe how impressive, fast and efficient the setup was, leaving Jeff’s Shed with a leap in my step, a spring all the more pronounced upon seeing the surreal sight of a scrub person playing casually at The Accordion. . Emerging into the sun again, it only reinforced my belief that the frontline people who seek us out are the greatest and brightest heroes of our time. We must all mobilize collectively to honor their service. I can’t wait to receive the number two jab.
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