Starting on Monday, March 29, foreigners in Shanghai were able to make an appointment for the domestically-produced COVID-19 vaccine, to be delivered in two doses. I booked a vaccination appointment through the Jiankang Yun (Health Cloud) app, by scanning the QR code below.
After receiving a text confirmation of the date, time and location for my vaccination, I waited patiently (and somewhat anxiously) for my appointment to arrive – and yesterday was my day of reckoning. Here’s a recap of my experience, along with some useful tips to ensure a smooth appointment.
I showed up at the Waitan Sub-District Community Health Service Center on Ningbo Lu 15 minutes before my appointment to find out that my vaccine location had actually been reassigned to an address closer to my home after I had received the initial confirmation of location. Luckily, the staff was nice enough to show me how to easily double check my new vaccine location in the app, and off I went to the correct location on Changshou Lu.
Although my time slot was from 3-3.30pm according to the app, no one actually checked the time assigned to me (nor my appointment confirmation); the testing location I visited allows foreigners to come by every Friday between 3-5pm, so as long as it’s within that time slot, they don’t care. It seems like as long as you have signed up at some point, the actual date you visit isn’t necessarily important.
Each testing location has allotted times, usually once or twice per week, when they allow foreigners to receive the vaccine. You can easily check those dates and times by logging into the Jiankang Yun app, selecting the testing center nearest to your home or work and clicking on different dates to see when vaccines are available. For example, Changshou Subdistrict Community Health Service Center vaccinates foreigners on Friday afternoons while Tongren Hospital offers vaccines to foreigners on Saturdays and Mondays.
Arriving at the testing center, there is a separate check-in for foreigners with English speaking staff. The person at the front desk will photocopy your passport, have you sign a consent form, let you know which vaccine you are receiving (Beijing SinoPharm, Wuhan SinoPharm or Sinovac) and pull up a barcode that will be used for tracking purposes. Next, you will be charged RMB100, which can be paid via Alipay or WeChat.
Following payment, I walked into a hallway opening up to eight different rooms, entered a room with no one in it and showed the nurse my barcode from before.
Within 30 seconds, I was pricked with a very painless needle. No blood, no band-aid and no sitting was even was involved. Just standard janky Chinese hospital efficiency mixed with a characteristic lack of bedside manner.
The nurse handed me a vaccination document and told me to head to a waiting area. With the warm spring weather, the waiting area is just a sectioned off space outside the hospital covered by an awning. A volunteer handed me a bottle of water and instructed me to wait about 30 minutes to ensure there was no adverse reaction. No one tracked my time, and after estimating that roughly 30 minutes had passed, I got up and walked out.
That’s it, folks. The entire process from start to finish took less than 40 minutes, 30 of which were just sitting outside playing on my phone after the shot had already been administered. You can’t ask for more streamlined than that.
For the second dose of the vaccine, they told me to come back any Friday between 3-5pm 21 days or more after the administration of my first shot. No need to make another appointment, just show up between the specified foreigner time slot at the location of my initial vaccine dose – the epitome of laidback over something the rest of the world is stressing about.
I felt very minimal arm soreness the evening following the shot, and received no follow-up instructions – like foods, beverages or physical activity to avoid before or after taking the vaccine. I heard from others that they were told not drink alcohol, eat spicy foods or consume caffeine in the 24 hours preceding and the 72 hours following the shot, however, I received no such (somewhat ambiguous sounding) instruction. To be safe, for the few days following, I'm drinking like a pregnant woman – sips here and there, maybe a cheeky glass of wine – a vaccine-induced detox never hurts.
- Double check the address, date and time of the appointment on the Jiankang Yun app. In certain cases, such as mine, the location of the appointment was changed AFTER receiving the booking confirmation. To avoid confusion on the day, always double – or triple – check.
- Bring your passport with your valid visa inside.
- According to Reuters studies, Sinovac vaccines are most effective when the second dose is administered 3-4 weeks following the first dose. Sinopharm vaccines are most effective when the second dose is administered 3 weeks following the first dose.
- Get the vaccine shot in your non-dominant arm and move your arm up and down and in a circular motion for a few minutes after the shot to help avoid soreness later on, similar to what you would do when receiving any booster or regular shot.
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