Caribbean people and Jamaicans especially have some words that are truly expressive, often because they’re onomatopoeic; jook is one of them. It’s said with oomph and replicates well the idea of jabbing.
Well, I was sitting happily in front of the TV watching Premier League football, yesterday mid-afternoon, when my wife excitedly yelled “Let’s go! We can get vaccinated.” My brain slowly clicked out of footie mode into ‘COVID dialogue mode’—those expressions that are grounded in the COVID pandemic. The latest involve getting protected from the virus. “We can go; they’re doing the over-60s,” she continued. Once upon a time that “doing” might have suggested a dance, like The Twist. But, in COVID-speak, “doing” age groups is now used as a common separator.
Jamaicans have been getting vaccinated since March 10, making appointments and dealing with priority groups such as health workers and those most vulnerable, including those over 75. Nearly 42,000 have been vaccinated. However, last weekend the government had a vaccination blitz trying to vaccinate 1000 at one site, the National Arena. However, the numbers being vaccinated in that group have been falling. No surprise, then, when my wife “got a message”.
Ironically, she was having a Zoom book club meeting when one of the group said her husband had just gotten a message that those over-60 could go without registration to the Arena for jabs…jooks.
Well, talk about burn rubber. My wife was like an excited kitten. We grabbed a pain killer. We flung open the door to the garage. We didn’t bother to lock up the house. We hit the road. Curfew had started at noon. We noted that traffic was light but more present than when we had travelled to the airport last Sunday. But, it seemed that some people were playing with the rules, with enough evidence that they were not essential workers, or delivery staff, etc: a man with a scandal bag of goods; a couple on a motorbike; some people walking; numerous cars not heading to the same place as us. If I were generous, I could say some were heading toward the hospital. Hmm.
We arrived at the stadium complex and saw police checking car’s, for those with appointments, but we sailed on straight to parking. As we found our way to the vaccination site, chair were set out under tents for the initial registration. All the health workers, soldiers and police were in happy mood, maybe knowing their days would soon be done, but more likely that good feeling from seeing people get what they want. There was no pushing and hub-hub, as people sat and waited and then gave information. Immediately in front of us was, ironically, the source of the message to come 🙂 Hands were being sanitised at every stage. We were sent to a set of seats inside the Arena. We completed a form and within moments nurses were beside us with trays, holding cooler boxes of Astra Zeneca vials, a bit like food trolleys serving dim-sum, I thought.
In no time, we’d been vaccinated. I didn’t feel a thing, which was odd as I was watching as I tried to take a picture of the action; my wife felt a little nick—but she hates needles and most things medical :). We then sat being observed, for about 20 minutes, before getting our essential vaccination cards and being given information about the vaccine and the date of our 2nd dose, which we could get without an appointment on that day. Then home, after a few words with others we knew.
The crowd had grown outside as word spread about the opportunity. Rain was just falling lightly. The original plans were to keep vaccinating till 4pm but I think the gates were closed closer to 5, but all inside were promised vaccines.
COVID has raised health anxieties and access to vaccines has added another twist to those anxieties, especially amongst older people. From the start, messages have been flying around about getting vaccines by just ‘turning up’ and hoping that pity and available serum would work in the favour of the very old. We steered clear of such messages, and were just being patient. We were also not going to call in any favours to ‘jump the line’.
It was clear that the plan was to give the oldest group more time as they also have greater difficulty complying with registration and transport issues. Those over 60 would be called soon—during this week is my estimation. A critical factor is having enough vaccines. We’re due to receive another 120,000 doses in coming days, out of an allotment to cover 1.5 million people.
So, like happy children who’d run after the ice cream truck and gotten served before the chimes went off into the distance for another week, we sat at home smiling at our good luck. That’s what made it sweeter, for me. True gifts just land without warning.
Of course, in these days of social media, sharing our good fortune was a must and it was nice to get a lot of equally happy and excited reactions from friends and family, from those already vaccinated and those still waiting.
So, waiting and watching for side effects. Taking pain killers, in case. So far, so good. Roll on mid-June for the 2nd dose.