Abu Dhabi: With the advent of the novel coronavirus, our lives have been transformed in ways big and small. And last month, I was privy to another of the various drive-through services that have pervaded our lives - drive-thru vaccinations.
When the pandemic descended upon us in March, I was happy to keep my children home in the belief that they would be more protected from the virus. But as the days rolled into April, I realised that the date for my youngest one’s 18-month vaccination was about to lapse.
At the time, I wasn’t sure whether to prioritise a routine immunisation over the risk of contracting a virus that no one understood, least of all how to cure patients who became infected. So I skipped the appointment in the hope that the outbreak would soon die and I would be able to visit the clinic without any fears.
This, of course, did not come to pass, and being a strong believer in the power of vaccines against infectious diseases, I was worried. It was then that Abu Dhabi’s public health provider, the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha), launched drive-through vaccinations at its clinics.
I jumped at the opportunity, and booked a slot. It wasn’t at a particularly convenient time, and clashed with my workday, but I wasn’t willing to delay the shots any longer. Also, I wasn’t sure just when the next slot would be available, given this was a new system to administer vaccines.
On the day of the appointment, my husband drove us to the designated clinic. I sat at the back with my daughter, knowing I would have to hold her as the injections and oral drops were given.
At the entryway to the clinic, a sign urged patients to call the clinic as they approached. I dialed the number, and our details were registered by the reception. We were then told to park the car until we were called.
The queue of cars wasn’t too long, and after about 20 minutes, we were asked to join it. It was a hot, hot day, and we noticed an attendant directing vehicles: it looked like a difficult job, and I was truly thankful to be sitting in an air-conditioned vehicle.
The cars inched ahead, and I saw the furthest one stationed under a tent-like structure. A nurse in full protective gear appeared to be tending to a patient inside.
It took another 20 minutes before our car reached the tent. A nurse, smiling despite the heat, told us about the vaccines, and took my daughter’s temperature with an infrared thermometer. She then popped into the clinic building to retrieve the vaccines.
For my first-born as well as for my daughter, we’ve always visited the public clinics for the routine immunisations. The process is simple, although we sometimes have to wait a while, and not too many tears are shed as experienced nurses furnish a smile and quickly administer the injections. This time, I was a bit more anxious, especially as there was no table where I could lay my child down. I didn’t think sitting on my lap in a car was the most comfortable position in which to get a shot.
For the 18-month vaccinations, there are two combination vaccines which together protect against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella and Influenza B. An oral drop boosts the child’s immunity against polio.
My daughter twisted her face at the bitter taste of the drops, but didn’t utter a sound as the nurse gave her the first injection in her arm muscle. I was relieved.
“The next shot is more painful, but we’ll get there,” the nurse said.
But the second injection went just as smoothly, with my daughter simply looking quizzically at the nurse.
“Good girl!” the nurse said, before telling me to treat any fevers with the correct dose of paracetamol drops.
I thanked her for her service, and received another flashing smile. Then, as my daughter resumed singing her nursery rhymes, we drove off.
It was an easy procedure, and I was happy with minimum level of social interaction we had to undertake. I was also very grateful: it took so little effort in our part, and the nurses and attendants carried it out smilingly, despite the heat and effort it entailed for them. During this pandemic, this level of ease and safety is a lot more than many people around the world are able to access. Thank you, UAE!