21 Jun Vaccinated

An edited version of this was published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 28.6.21


In March last year, a much more brazen version of Current Me was banging on to a workmate about how relaxed I felt about all this Covid-19 stuff. I was young-ish (not 90), had a great immune system, hadn’t caught a virus in years. I could see how it might worry other people but, honestly, I wasn’t that bothered.

I really don’t like March 2020 Me. Quite annoying. Though in my defence, this was only a week after New Zealand’s first reported case, and we were yet to contemplate our first lockdown – or even picture what a lockdown was. News from elsewhere was troubling, but news from elsewhere often is, and we knew little about infection and death rates, and nothing of Long Covid.

A witness for the prosecution would note, however, that the real reason for my confidence (bordering on hubris) was that I had the Best Ever Overseas Holiday booked and paid for after a year of careful planning (cue gods laughing) and I didn’t want anything to stop me getting on that plane. I was ready to take my chances (I can hardly bear to type these words) on a six week trip to America.

Furthest I’ve been since then is Dunedin. Loved it. I mean, it’s no New Orleans Jazz Festival or Disneyworld, sure, but you know… cheese rolls and comedy gigs. There is no way now I would get on an international flight – bubble or no bubble – until I am fully vaccinated. I’ve become increasingly anxious about going to work in rooms filled with hundreds of people, some of whom have been travelling across the Tasman.

So I am massively relieved to have had my first vaccine shot and be halfway there. I am lucky (let’s call it “lucky” in this context) to have been diagnosed, since my hubris of last year, with a health condition that plonks me firmly in Group 3 for New Zealand’s vaccination programme. There are 1.7 million of us who have a dodgy heart or lungs, or cancer or other disease, or a disability, or are pregnant, plus it includes everyone over 65. 

Each DHB is handling the vaccine invitations for their region. Some appear to have a better system than others which is causing a fair amount of frustration. Where I live they offer a phone number to call if you haven’t heard from them yet, but in other districts there has been little communication. It’s this uncertainty that makes you crazy – we want them to have a clear plan, and to see where we fit in it.

So there is criticism of our vaccine rollout (and of every vaccine rollout worldwide) with many here saying it needed to be centralised rather than DHB-led. Hard to argue with given DHBs themselves will be scrapped this time next year in favour of a new public health agency under the Ministry of Health, alongside the Māori Health Authority.

I’m not a doctor (I’m not even a project manager) but while I was attempting to nail down dates for my two vaccinations, it occurred to me that a primary health provider like my GP clinic might have the best information about who needed their jabs first and fast. They’re pretty terrific at calling you in for your flu jab, and I suspect that ultimately, as we keep needing an annual Covid-19 vaccination, pairing these up on a patient schedule might not be the worst idea I’ve ever had. If you’re reading this in your doctor’s waiting room (will we get the magazines back soon?) mention it to her or him and see what they reckon.

My arm was sore (briefly) after that first shot, but my anxious shoulders have dropped back into place. There at the sharp end of vaccinations (deliberate use of “sharp”, yes) it was all calm and efficiency and compassion. In our neighbourhood, they’ve taken over an empty Warehouse store, and it is the greatest bargain going. I had an official appointment but my Close Household Contact (aka my husband) was allowed to join me. “Tell them Dave says he can be a ‘drop in’,” said kindly Dave, who was sorting the queue at the door.

He did the same for the woman ahead of us accompanying her elderly father. “Are you ok standing for a while, or can we get you a wheelchair?” Dave asked, but was assured the dad would be all right leaning on his stick. Dave walked the pair to the first available sign-in desk and left instructions for them to be fast-tracked through the process to keep stick-leaning time to the absolute minimum.

We passed through (I counted) seven pairs of kind and solicitous hands over the next 40 minutes – including the 20 minutes sitting quietly being observed for any reactions. I couldn’t help noticing the layout was similar to a queue for a Disney ride. If they’d piped in a bit of jazz, it would have been perfect.