‘Vaccines Are The Only Way To Get Our Normal Lives Back’: Expats Share Their Vaccination Experience | Vietcetera

‘Vaccines Are The Only Way To Get Our Normal Lives Back’: Expats Share Their Vaccination Experience

We talked to two expats who have received their first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Vietnam to share their vaccination experience.

‘Vaccines Are The Only Way To Get Our Normal Lives Back’: Expats Share Their Vaccination Experience

In Vietnam, only 3.8% of the 98 million population have been vaccinated, or 3.7 million people received their first doses, with roughly 193,000 getting two shots. | Source: Shutterstock

According to Our World in Data, only 23.4% of the global population have received at least one vaccine dose as of June 29 or a total of 3 billion vaccine doses. There are over 7 billion people in the world.

Other parts of the globe are still struggling, some are “struggling again” — the past week has brought record-breaking caseloads in Africa, widespread lockdowns in Australia, and the reinstituting of indoor mask mandates in Los Angeles and Israel. 

Sixty-seven countries and territories have vaccinated less than 10% of their population, including Thailand (9.6%), Taiwan (8.2%), the Philippines (7%) South Africa (4.9%), and Vietnam. 

In Vietnam, only 3.8% of the 98 million population have been vaccinated, or 3.7 million people received their first doses, with roughly 193,000 getting two shots.

So far, Vietnam has received around 4.5 million Covid-19 vaccine doses produced by AstraZeneca, either through contracts, global vaccine access mechanism Covax or foreign aid. And many countries like Japan and Russia have been giving Vietnam vaccine doses to inoculate as many individuals as possible. In fact, AstraZeneca promises Vietnam another 8 million vaccine doses by August 2021. 

With the fourth wave now blowing up to more than 17,000 cases, Vietnam is in real danger. But the Vietnamese government is planning a comprehensive development boost to the industry involving COVID-19 vaccine research, technology transfer, and producing vaccines that meet international standards.

Just this morning, Vietnam News reported that Ho Chi Minh City authorities have tightened the COVID-19 prevention measures by setting up 25 task forces in 21 districts and Thủ Đức City and improving testing capacity to one million samples per day. Taskforce members include representatives of the health department, the HCMC Centre for Disease Control (HCDC), students at medical universities, and members of youth unions.

Between June 19 and June 27, HCMC has inoculated 710,773 people thanks to the 806,000 of the 966,320 doses given by Japan. The city’s mass vaccination program is the biggest in the country’s history.

Vietcetera talked to two expats who have received their first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Vietnam, Pippa and Sandra, to share their vaccination experience.

Three years in Vietnam and originally from the UK, Pippa is a music teacher in an International School based in Nha Be, the southern part of Ho Chi Minh City. Canadian Sandra, not her real name, has been in the country for the last six years with her whole family, working as an English teacher in HCMC. 

Ho Chi Minh City's mass vaccination program is the biggest in the country’s history. | Source: Shutterstock

When did you get the vaccine and how did you learn about it?

Pippa: Our school had registered all the staff a few months ago. On the morning of June 22, we were told to go to the vaccination center. When we arrived, the staff there told us they were not vaccinating foreigners. I was fortunate that I hadn't left home at that point. The next day around 2:30 pm we were told to go back to the same center, and were finally successfully vaccinated!

Sandra: I got the information from our school and the admin staff told the rest of the teaching staff, foreigners included, to go to this address and get vaccinated. At first, I was hesitant but it kinda was imposed by our school to do so and so I did. I got mine on June 24. 

Take us back to the vaccination day, how did it go?

Pippa: Once we got inside everything ran really smoothly. It was very efficient and I was so impressed with the medical staff. We were lucky that we had a school admin to support us when filling out the paperwork, which may have been a little bit difficult without her. My blood pressure was a little high so I had to wait for a little longer. We were questioned on our medical background, they were very strict and cautious about this. When we were all cleared, we then went on to have the vaccination, I got AstraZeneca. As someone who hates needles, they were so friendly and I hardly felt it. Afterward, we were made to wait 30 minutes and then checked on to make sure we were ok before being permitted to leave. We were given a sheet in Vietnamese with warnings of side effects and with a QR code that we can easily scan to report any health issues. All in all, I was very impressed with the staff and process in the center.

Sandra: It was pretty crowded, well not how we used to define a crowd but there were quite a number of people, like more than 50. To me, who’s been staying at home for almost a month, that was a lot. So anyway, it went really well for me: staff was friendly even if they don’t speak English that much, the whole process was organized well, clear instructions on what information to provide and they give you ample time to declare the details of your medical history. I got vaccinated less than an hour after I arrived, quick and easy, and waited for another 30 minutes for observation. After I got cleared, they shared files and QR codes for the follow-up. Didn’t really expect to get that shot comfortably and with ease. 

How did you feel after, were there side effects?

Pippa: I had mine on Wednesday at about 3:30 in the afternoon and felt fine. At about 2 am the next day, I woke up feeling terrible. Bad headache and nausea. That lasted throughout the day and then by Thursday afternoon I also started getting some chills. The next day, I woke up feeling much better, still quite achy and I have a terrible headache, but no sickness. But it was all expected and I know it won't last. I’m British so for me, it was really important to get a UK-recognized vaccine. 

Sandra: Thank God I only felt a mild headache, nothing else. I’ve heard from my friends that they got chills, some fever, and a really bad headache. So far, I’ve never felt anything I should worry about. 

You got vaccinated just days after the news of someone who died in Hanoi after getting vaccinated, did that scare you?

Pippa: I actually saw that news after my vaccine. It's so sad but it wouldn't have made a difference to me getting the vaccine. There is always going to be a small risk, but statistically very unlikely.

Sandra: Upon hearing that, I actually felt scared, one of the reasons I was having second thoughts about whether I should take the vaccine or not. But at the end of the day, it’s a way for us to get better for the future and I’m lucky to be given the chance to be vaccinated so I didn’t want to waste it. 

When is your next schedule for the second dose?

Pippa: I asked the lady who gave us permission to leave and she told us to wait for 4-12 weeks.

Sandra: I didn’t get the chance to ask while at the venue cause everyone was super occupied and I figured I could just ask the school admin about it. They told us to wait for two months or even longer to get the second dose.

There are still people out there who are scared and skeptical about getting vaccinated, can you share any words of encouragement?

Pippa: The vaccine is the first ray of hope we have had and although it may not be a pleasant experience it is the only way we can start having our normal life back.

Sandra: I was scared but I got through it thinking about how much of an improvement this is, not just for me and my family but for the general public. It’s unfortunate to know that only a few people have this opportunity, so if you’re one of those who are able to get the vaccine, grab it and help yourself. Also, share your experience and educate others.