Notes from the Drive Through Vaccination Clinic

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Vaccinations are being rolled out in our community according to criteria such as age, health care professionals, etc., and based on supply. A special opportunity arose in our city, which has had a concerning spike in variants in the past two weeks, for people in my age category to receive the first dose of a Covid – 19 vaccine at a drive through clinic. Not something that I have ever experienced before but I jumped at this as soon as I heard it being announced.

So I arrived early this morning just as the clinic was set to open and found myself driving towards long lines of cars. Typically this parking area, dull asphalt grey, is used for professional sporting events, exhibitions and a giant agricultural show. Now it has been transformed into a health care staging area! By the time I had parked, and scoped out my surroundings, I quickly realized two things. First, there were so many cars that I couldn’t actually understand how the queue was to work and second, as people parked both beside and behind me, I would not be leaving any time soon. So, with no chance to change my mind, I settled in for the journey.

A kind young woman came to my car and asked to place a card on my windshield so that they could use my arrival time to assess what the actual wait time was to receive a vaccination. Sure, I said, and what exactly is your best guess at the wait time. Five hours she said, then quickly pointed out the portable washroom facilities and wished me a great day! As I looked around me, I saw one of my new neighbours reading a book titled, The Power of Habit” and the woman in front of me opened her trunk revealing a cooler and a lawn chair.

Most people seemed to be using their cell phones and for the first hour, it was relatively quiet in our area of the gigantic parking lot. After about an hour, I was feeling stiff and somewhat uncomfortable so got out of my car to stretch and to determine how the lines would work. There didn’t seem to be any traffic moving towards the buildings that I assumed we would be driving into. I could also see that people were becoming a bit restless and some headed off to use the facilities. It occurred to me at this point that there might be long lines for those as well.

So I decided not to drink very much liquid and to wait as long as possible. I set off for a long walk and marvelled at the number of vehicles that kept coming and watched as new lines continued to form well beyond where I was. Walking back to my car, I began to gather a sense of how the traffic would flow once lines began to move. People were now mostly outside of their cars, the gentlemen beside me having abandoned his reading material and now had begun cleaning his headlights. Several people climbed into their truck beds to video the scene and to survey what was going on.

I spoke with a woman who commented that she was most grateful for this opportunity and I heartily agreed. Hard to be cranky about waiting when you were about to receive something that potentially could be life saving. The weather is fully cooperative, with soul warming sunshine and little wind. I try and read a bit and write some words but am finding myself too distracted by everything going on around me. Finally, the line beside me roars to life with cars starting and I realize we are soon to be next.

The journey continues. Albeit it is slow and meandering and I still can’t visualize where we will end up. Another hour of slow, steady driving towards a certain destination that must be within eyesight but the line of cars snakes around corners. Eventually, the building we will enter is suddenly before us and it is clear where the line finally ends. Once inside, cheerful, proficient professional nurses are administering vaccines and once completed, we are directed outside to a parked area manned by Emergency medical services personnel for the final 15 minute wait.

Five long hours seemed insignificant compared to the challenges of this entire past year. So glad, and so grateful to have had this opportunity. I will celebrate as our community continues to receive the chance to be safer and to stay healthy. Let’s hope that the next several months bring about the changes we have all been waiting for.