Disclaimer: The below suggestions, opinions, and experiences are my own and not from a medical professional. Speak to a doctor for your own personal healthcare needs and advice. 

On Thursday night I got THE CALL. The COVID-19 vaccination call we have all been waiting for. Through government channels, my company was informed that we were on the next day’s vaccination list! 

I was told to arrive at the government vaccination centre for my appointment at 2pm the next day. I was supplied with a PDF copy of my appointment letter, the address of the vaccination centre, and told to arrive at least 30 minutes beforehand with my passport and temporary residence card (TRC). They could not confirm the vaccination brand, but it was likely to be AstraZeneca (Spoiler: it was). 

Apart from that, information was scarce, and I had little idea of what to expect – so hopefully this article will give you that peace of mind. This is about my experience and some suggestions on how to prepare for the injection and aftercare: 

  • Night before and day itself
  • What to bring
  • What happens at the vaccination centre
  • Aftercare and side effects
  • Resources and emergency numbers

Night Before and Day Itself

Get Some Sleep

It goes without saying that you should get a good night’s rest. Of course, this is much easier said than done, given that I found out about my appointment an hour before my normal bedtime. The excitement, adrenaline, and the uncertainty of what to expect spiked my feelings of anxiousness and led to poor rest. It might be helpful to do some light stretching or breathing exercises before sleeping. 

How to Get There

If you have your own mode of transport, you are allowed to use it to get there. 

Taxis are still operating; however, they can only be booked 30 minutes before departure. Do note that when I called, both companies only had Vietnamese speaking phone operators. You will also have to call for another taxi when the vaccination is over.

  • Vinasun Hotline: 02838 27 27 27
  • Mai Linh Taxi Hotline: 1055
Vinasun taxi
Vinasun taxi @ Internet

Private car hires can be booked in advance and they communicate in English. They also do round trips; the driver will wait for you and take you home. This is the most convenient option, but comes with a heftier price tag. 

  • Clown Car number: 090 938 15 81
  • Vikado number (whatsapp, viber, zalo): 098 558 3489, 093 777 2386

Day Itself

Dos

  • Have a meal before going to the centre, you might be spending quite some time there
  • Some light exercise if you are up for it, you might not be able to do so for the next few days
  • Gather your aftercare supplies: this could include painkillers, herbal ointments, easy to prepare food, books, etc.

*These are simply my suggestions however there were no instructions given.

Don’t

  • The medical staff at the vaccination centre will take your vitals, so do not ingest anything you would not normally, i.e., do not have a cup of coffee if that is not your usual habit.

What to bring

  • Passport
  • TRC, work permit, or visa documents
  • Vaccination letter of approval
  • Pen
  • Water
  • Hand-sanitiser
  • Medical certificates or proof of existing health conditions or allergies
  • Some form of entertainment: fully charged phone, a book, etc.
Prepare needed documents for getting vaccined @ akaratwimages / Canva Pro

There was a police checkpoint on the way to the vaccination centre, however I was not stopped. If you are stopped, show the vaccination letter of approval and your identification documents. 

What Happens at the Vaccination Centre

  1. Fill out forms (All the forms and most of the information were in Vietnamese, it would be useful to have a digital translator on hand, or even better, a friend or colleague who can help)
  2. Get tested for COVID-19
  3. Have your vitals checked
  4. Get the injection
  5. Stay in the monitoring room
Sitting in socially distanced lines awaiting our turns.
Sitting in socially distanced lines awaiting our turns @ Debby Wong / Vietnam Is Awesome

1. Fill out forms 

My vaccination centre was at a school, and when I arrived, I was directed to sit down in the rows of socially distanced stools and given two forms. 

Vaccine form
Vaccine form @ Debby Wong / Vietnam Is Awesome

The small form is translated as:

  • Họ và tên / Full name
  • Nam or Nữ / Male or Female
  • Năm sinh / Year of birth
  • CMND/CCCD / ID, Passport number
  • Số điện thoại / Phone number
  • Địa chỉ / Address

The large form:

Top section

  • Họ và tên / Full name
  • Nam or Nữ / Male or Female
  • Ngày sinh / Date of birth
  • Nghề nghiệp / Occupation
  • Đơn vị công tác / Workplace
  • Địa chỉ liên hệ / Address
  • Số điện thoại / Phone number
  • Sign the back of the form with your full name and note that you do not fill up the other details of the form, the medical staff will do that for you.

After filling in the forms, the staff collected the large ones, and we kept the small ones. People were then called up, seemingly at random, for the COVID-19 test. 

2. Get tested for COVID-19

In groups of 6, we were called aside for the testing. Here you are returned your large form and you give the testers your small form. We were tested group by group, and each group was made to wait for about 30 minutes, before being allowed into the next station. I believe this was the rapid antigen testing, and each group had to pass the test before being allowed through. 

Covid testing
Covid testing @ Debby Wong / Vietnam Is Awesome

3. Have your vitals checked 

At this stage, our temperatures and blood pressure were taken. The medical staff also asked us questions on our health and allergies. This is all reported down on the large form.

vitals checked
Vitals checked @ Debby Wong / Vietnam Is Awesome

4. Get the injection

Next up, my group joined the queue for the vaccination, which took place in one of the classrooms. It took less than 15 minutes before it was my turn. I checked with the doctor about the brand of the vaccination just before receiving the AstraZeneca jab – a relatively painless experience. 

Written on the blackboard – ‘After vaccination, please go to the monitoring room’
Written on the blackboard – ‘After vaccination, please go to the monitoring room’ @ Debby Wong / Vietnam Is Awesome

5. Stay in the monitoring room

We were kept in the next classroom for half an hour. Here, I handed in the large form and waited. Everyone was given a sheet of paper on the side effects to expect, this was written all in Vietnamese. 

All went well, and when my name was called, I was given this stamped form officially indicating that I have received my first dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccination in Vietnam – amazing! (Be sure to double check your name and details have been written down correctly.) Then, I was free to go. 

Vaccination document
Vaccination document - check that all your details are correct and keep this safe. @ Debby Wong / Vietnam Is Awesome

Overall, I found the vaccination centre to be quite organised once everything was in motion. The doctors, nurses, staff, were professional and kind. I arrived half an hour before my appointment, and the whole process took about two hours. However, others have reported longer waiting times. All the forms and most of the information were in Vietnamese, it would be useful to have a digital translator on hand, or even better, a friend or colleague who can help. 

Aftercare and Side Effects

Personally, I had a slight fever, and severe body aches. It was helpful to have painkillers at hand and easy to prepare meals. 

Some common side effects include:

  • Tenderness, pain, warmth, itching or bruising where the injection is given
  • Generally feeling unwell
  • Fatigue
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Feeling nauseated
  • Joint pain or muscle ache
  • Swelling, redness or a lump at the injection site
  • Fever
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Pain in legs or arms
  • Flu-like symptoms, such as high temperature, sore throat, runny nose, cough and chills

Very serious side effects are rare, and may result in blood clotting, from the UK NHS’ website:

Advise from NHS UK website
Advise from NHS UK website @ NHS UK website

For more information, check out the resources below. If you have serious, rare symptoms, seek medical help, there is also a list of emergency numbers below.

Helpful resources

  • AstraZeneca information leaflet – 

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/regulatory-approval-of-covid-19-vaccine-astrazeneca/information-for-uk-recipients-on-covid-19-vaccine-astrazeneca#possible-side-effects

  • Blood clotting concerns – 

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-vaccination-and-blood-clotting/covid-19-vaccination-and-blood-clotting

  • AstraZeneca Side Effects – 

https://www2.hse.ie/screening-and-vaccinations/covid-19-vaccine/astrazeneca/side-effects/

Emergency numbers

  • Emergency hotline for foreigners – 1087
  • FV French Hospital – 028 541 13500
  • Family Medical Practice – *9999

Getting vaccinated in Ho Chi Minh was relatively easy. Though, sometimes there were some language barriers. 

To make things easier we built a survival guide of useful Vietnamese phrases that you can use in various important situations. If you don’t feel comfortable with your Vietnamese language skills, you need these phrases!

If you’ve finished studying Vietnamese, and you’re looking for something to do, it’s time for some VIA inspiration