029BC: Vaccination Quirkiness

Not My Medication

Metro Manila Community Quarantine - Day 431

I've discussed a lot of this "drama" publicly on Twitter, but I figure that I should also document things here. So let's talk about the weird journey I've taken to finally get an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccination.

Coming from a family of asthmatics, when I started to display asthma symptoms in my early twenties, the immediate response was to share the asthma medication of my mother. Since I responded to treatment, it was inferred that I too was asthmatic like her and my sister. And I've generally accepted this diagnosis because the not being able to breathe thing is pretty much a dead giveaway for asthma. I've had my ups and downs over the years with my peak involving taking the likes of Seretide or Symbicort for maintenance, but mainly because it was what my mom had been prescribed and so I followed suit.

What I'm saying here is that I've never been formally diagnosed as being asthmatic. It's more like that adage about something that looks like, sounds like, and walks like a duck most likely being a duck. And since asthma medications are largely treated as over-the-counter medicines in this country, I've never had a problem getting access to even the stronger stuff.

But because of my weight loss journey starting with keto, then followed by walking, then jogging, and now full-on workouts, I've reached a happy point in my life where I haven't had the need to use my inhaler for over a year or so and I've been off regular maintenance meds even longer. So when the COVID-19 vaccination program started including the A3 category of individuals with comorbidities, I didn't quite consider myself once since it didn't sound like I was suffering from "chronic respiratory disease" as it was formally tagged. 

But as more and more friends with asthma got vaccinated, I started to feel like I wasn't following the plan and making sure I got vaccinated right away. But then what sort of proof could I show that I actually have asthma when I've never gotten a prescription for medication, what more a formal diagnosis beyond me telling doctors during my HMO-sponsored annual physical checkups that I was pretty sure I had asthma. Thus my ethical dilemma felt like was forcing my now milder case of asthma as a basis for A3 classification somehow jumping the vaccination queue?

I talked about this a fair bit on Twitter, and naturally, friends chimed in that it was my "duty" to get assessed for my asthma then scheduled for vaccination if needed. But could I really do this without the added risks that come with going to a hospital or clinic these days? Cue more introspection and overthinking. 

On the one hand, I could just reach out to doctor friends or family members and maybe ask them to write up a certificate as a favor. On the flip side, this felt very ethically wrong and I really don't feel comfortable with that sort of thing. Blame my Jesuit upbringing or something. 

Today I figured I'd try my luck with Maxicare's TeleConsult service and see what they had to say. I got passed around from the initial doctor to customer care and finally referred to a specialist in Cebu. But the Cebu doctor just called me over the phone (and not a video call) and just took my asthma story at face value and emailed a medical certificate of sorts as soon as I had completed a separate bank transfer for the certificate (which apparently is not covered by our HMO somehow?)

With that certificate in hand (or at least in email), I went into the Taguig TRACE app to update my comorbidity information and saw that I could immediately schedule my own vaccination appointment. At first, I thought I'd wait for next week's Vesak Day Singapore holiday, but I decided to push my luck and found an earlier Saturday slot. And just like that, I'm scheduled for my first dose of whatever vaccine they happen to be handing out this weekend. 

While I'm glad that I'm in queue for a vaccine, Tobie is not yet eligible to his very normal lungs and lack of other comorbidities. So being vaccine-discordant will be something that will annoy me for the foreseeable future until he becomes eligible. Beyond that, I am feeling a little miffed that my experience with telemedicine today indicates that pretty much anyone who can get their hands on a doctor who will take their word at face value can get certification for comorbidity. Then again, should I really look a gift horse in the mouth and just take it as it is? 

End of the day, I'm going to get vaccinated, and that's a good thing. It won't make me completely immune, but at least it will lower my potential risks of needing serious hospitalization should I actually contract it. And given how virulent the new strains are proving to be, it feels like the chances of getting it increase more and more.

I have no idea what vaccine I'm going to get. I'll just be grateful to get something.