Author: Enelra; Published Date: 7th September 2021

The fight to relieve humanity from the onslaught of this pandemic has proven to be an arduous uphill battle. It is both physically and mentally agonizing especially to those having to bear the brunt of this scourge on the frontlines. A year ago, before the life we knew came to a halt, no one could have foreseen a virus so formidable that it could turn a simple and pleasant handshake potentially lethal. These days, we even find ourselves refraining from saying “Let’s be positive” as the phrase seems to leave an ominous impression.

Hope for salvation finally came in the form of a vaccine that could fortify our natural defences against the dreadful pathogens, and generally, everyone eagerly waited for their fateful jab.

Several of us here in Sapulut camp grew almost impatient from checking the MySejahtera app frequently to see an appointment notification. Especially as weeks go by, we see our friends and family sharing pictures of themselves posing near photo booths in vaccine centres after getting their shots. Finally, the company took the initiative to register its staff under the PIKAS, a vaccination program organized by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) to provide immunization to employees in the manufacturing sector.

At last, the 29th of July, 2021, was our first vaccination day. It came as a surprise to us when we realized the venue was more than 200 kilometres away at the Sabah International Convention Centre in Kota Kinabalu. The Sapulut Covid Committee (SCC) contemplated to figure out how the 129 of us will get there without risking too much exposure to outsiders. Some were even uneasy about the long journey back and forth to Kota Kinabalu and camp for the costs that might incur. Fortunately, the Sapulut company graciously arranged and sponsored 6 buses as our transportation. Each passenger has a whole seat row to obey the SOP on social distancing when using public transport.

The evening before the big trip seemed hectic at the offices of the Forestry Complex as the appointed bus leaders to take charge of staff divided according to busses. It was not without challenges, as the committee members had to deal with last-minute changes and fussy individuals. Still, in the hours before dawn the next day, everyone assembled at the forestry complex for a morning briefing by our OSH Officer, who reminded everyone that the trip’s primary purpose was to receive our first dose. Everyone needed to obey the Covid prevention SOP.

At precisely 5.30 AM, we were all in busses bound for the state capital city. For many, it was the first long road trip they had in a very long while, and there was a sense of excitement and nervousness in the air. Some had to endure road sickness while others were delighted to see sights they have long missed seeing, like the Crocker Range views and the expansive paddy fields in Tambunan, which filled our hearts with melancholy.

Upon reaching the new and pristine building of the International Convention Centre, a fresh ocean view greeted us and staff members from the Wisma Manikar Office were tasked to hand out our lunch meals that day. We were ushered down to the building’s massive parking lot, to the set up waiting areas. While keeping a meter between vaccine candidates in single file, we were led to seating areas before being called in groups by the vaccine support volunteers to enter the reception area. The accordingly sectioned reception area was a spacious lobby that handled PIKAS, public and walk-in appointments. Our documents were processed seamlessly, and each of us was interviewed on our health status before we finally sat in the holding area where the shots were administered in multiple private cubicles.

Hearts were racing, and nervous faces were seen as everyone anxiously waited to enter the cubicle. A single chair was provided inside the cubicle, and a healthcare worker shows the Sinovac bottle and syringe already containing the transparent elixir. After deep breaths to calm the muscle, a swift injection and a slight pinch deliver the key to our salvation into the body’s system. With our first dose completed, we indulged in our afternoon meal then made our way back to camp as darkness creeps into the sky.

Our second dose was set on the 19th of August and the days between the two appointments went as usual with only minor side effects like sore injection sites, lethargy, and munchies. As the day arrived, everyone was already familiar with the motions, and by noon we were lining up inside the convention centre once more. The process was a lot quicker this time, and we could finally sigh a breath of relief as we sat and ate our prepared afternoon lunch. Then, we return to camp knowing that we have honoured our mandate to help save the country, its citizens, economy, and social wellbeing from collapsing under the weight of the pandemic.

Of course, the fight has not yet ended, for the new norm still needs to be in place as the vaccine does not prevent one from being infected. At least we can now retreat to the comfort that since more of us are getting vaccinated, the number of severe or fatal cases are dropping. Which led to more ventilators are being shelved, restrictions that keep us isolated from our families are more forgiving, business owners are recovering, and decelerated the rise of new variants.

All of us would like to express our gratitude towards our heroes in the frontlines for braving the chaos awoken by covid-19 and the company for generously administrating our camp’s journey to vaccination.

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