This is about events that happened on Tuesday, the 1st of June. We obtained the second dose of the Sinopharm vaccination in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Click here to read about the more exciting first dose.
Returning to Bishkek for Our Second Dose
After twelve nights in Cholpon-Ata at Issyk-Kul Lake, we took a taxi back to Bishkek. The driver runs a little restaurant at Cholpon-Ata Bazaar with his wife. He offered to drive us back for a fair price. It was much faster than the first journey. And though I would have liked to hitchhike back, it was a bit too much for now with the slightly complicated hitchhiking experiences we’ve already had in Kyrgyzstan.
We arrived back in our apartment in Bishkek two days before June 1st, the date of our second dose. We’d reserved May 31st to just work on some projects and get our ducks in a row. I dug in my wallet to find my vaccination card and I prepped my banged-up yellow card. At the supermarket, we bought some wholesome tea because we don’t drink alcohol the night before the vaccination.
In Between Doses: Kyrgyzstan Ran Out of Vaccine
But before I discuss receiving the Sinopharm second dose, this is what happened in the three weeks between shots.
On the day of our first dose, the news website announced that receiving Sputnik V as someone younger than 65 years old would now be paid. It would cost US$10 per dose, but remain free of charge for everyone over 65. Though a little shocking to me initially, it kind of made sense; I’d seen so many young people come to the clinic, ask for Sputnik V, get told there’s only Sinopharm, then turn around and leave.
Updates on daily vaccinations only happen sporadically on the English news website, but it was exciting to see us counted in the stats a few days after our first dose.
On May 25th, the news announced that Kyrgyzstan was running out of “first dose” of both Sinopharm and Sputnik V. What this means is a little vague, because there’s no difference between the first and second dose. In this article, they said there were about 6000 doses of Sinopharm left. The numbers cited in these articles don’t really align with the 150.000 doses of Sinopharm and the 30.000 doses of Sputnik V. The article states that 99.645 doses have been given, of which some were second shots, but that’s only 55% of total doses. How, pray tell, are they running out? The accidental defrosting of Sputnik V – though tragic – isn’t enough to explain this.
But anyway, it was clear that these 6000 doses of Sinopharm aren’t enough to give the second dose to everyone who has only had the first dose.
So Kyrgyzstan was running out of vaccines, but new batches of Sputnik V, Sinopharm, and brand-new AstraZeneca would arrive very soon. The predicted delivery time for another 150.000 doses of Sinopharm was before the end of May. Though the vaccines were packed and ready for shipment in China, Kyrgyzstan was looking for a suitable plane to transport them, which can be an issue. Again, the 150.000 doses of Sinopharm are (free) Chinese humanitarian aid.
Did all this news make me feel bad? Yes. Would forgoing our second dose appointment help in the fight against COVID-19 in Kyrgyzstan? No. Let me explain:
When we got our first vaccine, we also gave them our phone number to contact us for any reason. A good reason to contact us would be to tell us that ЦСМ №7 had run out of Sinopharm. But we didn’t receive any phone call in the days leading up to our second dose appointment. Jonas was convinced that the last bunch of Sinopharm shots were ‘reserved’ as second doses. In the worst-case scenario, we would travel to the clinic only to hear that they’re out. No biggie; even if we had to wait for the second batch of 150.000 Sinopharm doses to arrive from China, we would be fine with that. But not showing up for our appointment would have been the worst assumption to make.
Receiving the Second Dose of Sinopharm as a Tourist
The morning of, I took a shower and looked for suitable clothes. We hadn’t done laundry since returning and my favorite vaccination shirt was dirty. So I found an alternative with an easy ‘flap it up to the shoulder’ function. We double-checked our documents and Jonas found three (!) working pens for writing stuff down. Then we took a taxi to Family Medical Center №7 again. This time, we entered via the back entrance, following the столовая signs till we saw the tent and the entrance to the clinic. After taking some photos, we entered.
Once inside, there was no queue out the door like last time. In fact, the main door was slightly ajar and the place felt deserted. Behind the door was a different lady at the registration desk. The room was nearly empty except for some familiar faces, like Tanya in the purple scrubs. I told the registration lady we were here for the “Вторая доза Синофарм” – pronouncing it Sináfarm – and handed over my passport, vaccination card, and appointment form. She started penning things down while someone in the room said “Только Китайская” and there was some back-and-forth mumbling.
The second I received my papers back and it was Jonas’ turn to register, the doctor who vaccinated us last time came to the hallway and was like come to the room. After handing over my vaccination card to the other registration lady in the room, I plopped down on the bed. The vaccination doctor got two tiny bottles of Sinopharm out of a cold box. I hadn’t really seen before how tiny and adorable these bottles were and told her “Это очень маленкая бутылка” and she said “Флакон” while drawing out the appropriate amount and then sterilizing the injection site.
By the time Jonas finished his registration and came to the room, the needle was already in my arm. It was slightly more painful than last time when I didn’t even feel the needle or liquid going in. I felt the cold liquid going inside followed by a cotton ball with cold alcohol pressed on there and the encouragement to hold the cotton ball myself. And that was that. That was my second dose. I’m now… fully vaccinated. So wack.
Jonas sat down and I asked again if it was okay to take photos. I took lots of photos with my big camera of Jonas receiving the second dose. This time no video. It went as fast as mine and before we knew it we stood outside of the room, fully vaxxed.
Writing the Sinopharm Vaccines into the Yellow Card
Now it was time to make our vaccinations a little more internationally accepted. We grabbed our yellow books and Tanya caught on. I was like “Как дела?” but she didn’t recognize me and it was very, very awkward for 0.2 seconds. She asked if we understood Russian and I said yes, then she said she didn’t speak English nor does anyone here. I responded with “Это не проблема.”
We got the page where it says “International vaccine certificate” with our yellow fever vaccine stamps and she pointed at it and said we should write in it ourselves what we did and then hand it back to the second registration lady who will stamp it. The vaccination doctor also caught on and eventually, she decided to write it in our booklets. I translated the columns from Spanish to Russian and though some were mixed up, all of the info was in there. She then stamped it twice. Pretty good!
She did the same with Jonas’ yellow card, which is in German. And now we had an international travel document, aka ‘vaccine passport’ with our Sinopharm vaccinations against COVID-19 in there. I wanted to high-five or hug everyone but thought it inappropriate.
The whole thing took us just 15 minutes and I’m still amazed it wasn’t busy at all. There was no observation this time.
Once outside, we took some more photos, enjoyed the sunrays and drank a small kvass and munched a simit on a street corner. We literally smelled the roses. Then we took a taxi back home.
Second Dose Side Effects
After some initial arm pain: nothing.
We took it easy and watched an episode of The Innocents after we returned home. Then I took a good long nap to catch up with my bad sleep the night before and I even laid on the arm for a bit. I was a bit warm during my nap, but I think that’s just because it was a 34°C day and not because of a fever or something. We tested my forehead temperature ‘with another head’ (i.e. Jonas) and we were the same temperature.
In the late afternoon, we made pizza dough to make our own pizzas. When it was late, I decided to drink a beer because I honestly felt great.
Nothing to mention yet. If I press on the site of vaccination I can feel it’s a little bruised or something but why would I press on it?
Day 3 and Beyond
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