Monday, June 17, 2024

Covid vaccination in Mexico: quick, organized, unsurprisingly bureaucratic

You guys. You guys!!

I finally got my vaccine. Like, just now. I’m clearly very excited about it.

Rather than giving much of an opinion this week, I’d like to spend my space telling you about the experience and … well, who am I kidding? You’re going to hear my opinions too. This is the opinion section, after all!

Last month, a friend of mine sent me the official notice that those who turned 40–49 before the end of the year would soon be up for their vaccines! I excitedly signed up, relieved that I wouldn’t have to wait for the 30–39 group (I turn 40 in a couple of months).

Then, I waited.

Finally, last week, someone in my friendly neighborhood WhatsApp group — what would we do without our neighborhood WhatsApp groups? — sent the notice that this week, vaccines would begin for my age group. The first part of the alphabet was today, meaning I’d get to be in the first group.

On that same notice was a list of what to bring: the registration form, your citizen identification number (known as the CURP), your voter ID card (known as the INE) — or in my case, passport and migrant card — and proof of residence, which usually means show us a recent utility bill bearing the address where you live — even if that bill is in someone else’s name since many renters’ bills are issued in the name of their landlord.

I printed the things off at a small neighborhood shop and headed toward the vaccination site on foot. When I got there, I was asked to show my documents. I’d forgotten my proof of residence!

I thought the day was saved when I remembered that I always take pictures of my paid light and water bills, and I showed it to the lady checking our documents. Alas, it was not enough: since I’m renting the house where I live, my name isn’t on the utility bill. Did I have a rent contract, or something for the internet bill, or anything with my name and address on it, she asked?

After a small and polite fit in which I tried to find out if everyone else that rented was being asked to rush out and find a copy of their rental contract (answer: unclear), I gave up the battle.

I was irritated that there hadn’t been any indication that we’d need a document with our name and current address on the same piece of paper; I don’t know if they made everyone that rented do the same thing. Though they explained that as a foreigner I had no proof that I lived there, it hardly would have been logical for me to come down to Mexico to take a vaccine when I can walk into any pharmacy in my own country to get one. But I know better than to argue too much when it comes to these things. And besides, this is Mexico. It’s just not reasonable to expect that you’re going to have all the papers that you need on the first go of trying any sort of bureaucratic deed.

Thankfully, both my partner and the lady who helps me with the house were home and, especially thankfully, I’m organized enough to have been able to tell them where the rental contract was. They sent me pictures of it and I headed out to the street to find a place to print them.

Copies, said a sign about a block away. “Eureka!” said I.

I moved closer and stood in the doorway, frowning at the eight or so cling-wrapped coffins on display. “Uh … this is the copy place?” I asked. Indeed, it was! Not only do they sell coffins, they can get you your copies in no time.

Alas, it was not to be; they had no printing service available, so I set out anew on my adventure.

Luckily, I didn’t have to search for long: there was an internet café just down the street (also next to a coffin shop — most places that sell them smartly set up shop close to the major public hospitals, one of which was just down the street from the vaccination site).

I printed off the first and last page of my rental agreement and headed back. Success! I was in.

The place to which one is assigned for their vaccine depends on the neighborhood of residence. For me, that meant a place relatively close that I walked to in about 25 minutes. The place I went to is officially a gym, but doubles as a convention center for bookfairs and the like.

It was enormous and gray — plenty of space to accommodate everyone at a distance. My temperature was taken several times, my documents were reviewed several times, and more papers were filled out and checked off.

I got a comically tiny one-inch-by-one-inch piece of paper that I was told I’d need to bring back with me for the second dose, along with several other papers, of course. I wonder how many people will be able to hold onto those tiny papers? I snapped a picture of it just in case, then put it in my passport holder.

I filled out a consent form (I mean, I was there, wasn’t I?) that needed the signature of two witnesses. “Just find some people sitting around you,” I was instructed.

I only waited about 20 minutes before it was finally my turn. I showed my papers, and after the lady giving the shot checked with her colleague to make sure she could give one over a tattoo (ha!), I was finally injected with my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

Afterward, I was ushered toward a smaller gym (after showing my papers again) to sit in the bleachers for 10 minutes with fellow recently vaccinated members of my generation while doctors scanned over us, making sure nobody started feeling bad.

Then, I left! That was it.

All in all, it was pretty simple and straightforward, and the people working there were helpful and organized.

Now, the opinion part: a lot of people down here are desperate to get their vaccines yesterday. It’s preposterous that in the United States there are vaccines just lying around because not enough people want them. What a privilege to say, “No, I don’t want to put any chemicals into my body, and the pandemic is not a big deal anyway.”

The U.S. did well in sending vaccines to Baja California. How about Baja California Sur as well, where they’re seeing a huge surge?

This was my first Covid-19 vaccine. I’d hoped to travel to the U.S. to get mine earlier but ended up just not having the funds for the trip. I feel so lucky to have finally been able to go, even with all the running around. I may or may not have cried several times.

If any of you have received your vaccines here in Mexico as well, we’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

Sarah DeVries is a writer and translator based in Xalapa, Veracruz. She can be reached through her website, and her Patreon page.

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