“Immunization series completed.”
The words, in a pleasant shade of green, flashed in my health kit, a confirmation that I had now joined the ranks of the fully vaccinated in China.
The fact that it proved easy and — almost — painless only reinforced my reassurance.
So what was it like? Here’s the brief tale of how I got vaccinated in Beijing.
In early April, HR sent us a message in a work chatroom announcing the company had arranged for free vaccinations for any interested foreign employees. If we decided to get vaccinated — a voluntary choice up to each of us — we could make an appointment through a QR code, and then receive the shot at a designated hospital just a 30-minute bus ride away from the office.
This is typical with what I’ve seen here in Beijing, where companies and even communities set up vaccinations for you. But there are also designated public vaccination sites where, with proper ID, people can also show up during specific hours for a vaccine, also at no charge.
In any event, I scanned the code, selected an appointment for 2 pm on a Thursday, and submitted the information.
The afternoon of the appointment, I caught a bus over, and quickly found the building of the hospital. With walls painted in soft, calming pastels and well-lit lobbies furnished with padded sofas and seats, the hospital reminded me of some of the best clinics and facilities I used to visit in the US while growing up. And even better, the place had thoughtfully posted signs in English about the vaccinations, guiding people where to enter, and where to go next.
First, they asked me to sign in and show my health code. This is a common practice across the country — whether you’re entering airports or train stations or even hotels — to verify your health status.
Then they motioned to the elevators, where the hospital had, once again, positioned a sign to remind anyone coming for a vaccine to ride up to the second floor. Those elevators conveniently opened to a lobby just opposite a small clinic with its walls splashed in more cheerful pastels and even a giraffe mural on the wall — clearly a place designed for little kids. The decor had the intended effect on my “inner child” (still nervous over needles), disarming my vaccine jitters, as did the nurses, wearing pink and peach scrubs and warm smiles.
After I signed in, I had to fill out quick consent-related paperwork in two small offices, which took only a handful of minutes.
Then they ushered me to the vaccination room, where two amiable-looking nurses, each on a respective side of the room, provided the service.
The nurse confirmed my name and ID information in the system, and then showed me the package of the vaccine, bearing the name of the manufacturer (a SinoPharm subsidiary) and its production and expiration date. This meant I would be receiving the SinoPharm vaccine, made with the traditional inactivated virus technology.
I turned away as she swabbed an area of my upper elbow, and then came the jab. I won’t lie — it pinched a bit. But it ended fast.
The nurses then told me to find a place in the lobby, where I settled into a chair near the window to wait for 30 minutes. Apart from a hint of fatigue and some sensitivity at the injection site, the side effects were nominal. (The fatigue even faded away by the evening.)
When my 30 minutes had passed, a nurse came by to take my temperature and check on me. Then she smiled and told me I could leave. As I walked out, a nurse at the front desk of the clinic reminded me to return in a month for the second dose.
A few weeks later, we received a message from HR reminding us about the booster shot on designated dates and times. The hospital also followed up with a notice by text message.
On a Thursday nearly one month after the first dose, I walked back into the same clinic, signed the same paperwork, and then sat down for a vaccine in the same vaccination room.
But this time, one welcome surprise — I didn’t even feel the shot, a first for my needle-averse self. I was so shocked I had to ask, in Chinese, “Was that it?”
The nurse beamed in delight, and said, “Tell all your friends about how painless it is!”
I thought, If only I’d had her the first time around. 😉
Have you gotten vaccinated yet? What’s been your experience?
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