A jab in the arm: Getting vaccinated in Bogotá

By Oli Pritchard July 3, 2021

If it’s your turn to get vaccinated in Bogotá, here’s how it went for our writer. It wasn’t quick, but it’s relatively easy.

Queuing to get vaccinated in Bogotá. Photo: Oli Pritchard

A couple of weeks ago my university told me that I was part of Group Three for vaccinations and as such could get vaccinated. I decided to wait a while as I still had classes and there were probably teachers more in need of it. Classes finished this week, so it was time to get vaccinated. I’d been told I’d need a certificado laboral to prove I was a uni worker, as well as the usual things such as my cédula. No problema. 

Navigating the website: Thursday 16:00

I log onto the website to organise my vaccine jab and am confronted by a range of options. San Ignacio is almost visible from my house, so I try that. There’s a lot of information to scroll through, but all fairly easy and fairly self-explanatory. Helpfully, there’s also plenty of information and advice about potential problems. Having navigated it all, there’s a separate page to register as part of grupo tres. Nice. I go and do that, then return to the main page. It’s all smooth sailing… And then I see I can only schedule today or two days hence. And all days at San Ignacio are fully booked. No worries, I’ll try early tomorrow to see if more appointments are available then.

Making an appointment: Friday 09:00

I log back on in the morning and find I have to navigate almost all of the main page again. Once again, there are no days free for San Ignacio. It’s small, I think, so I try going through the page for Avenida Chile. At 4km away it’s not far. Bingo! There are slots all through today, tomorrow and Sunday. Great.

I make an appointment for 14:20 this afternoon and that’s that. Instant confirmation, which I screenshot and call up on my phone. It tells me to download and sign a consent form. Nice and simple, so I get a few chores done (including printing that consent form), took the dogs for a quick walk and headed off to Avenida Chile for my date with the syringe.

Arriving for my vaccination: Friday 14:00

I arrived at Avenida Chile, found the correct entrance point and proudly showed the security guards my appointment and apologised for arriving early. Unimpressed, they sent me to the back of the line. The appointment turned out to have been a complete waste of time. All my queue neighbours hadn’t made appointments and we were all in the same boat. There are yellow strips on the floor indicating 2m distancing, but they’re largely ignored.

A few minutes later a miVacuna guy comes round with the consent form, so it turns out printing that off was also a waste of time. He refuses to believe that I can be vaccinated as a foreigner, but I stick to my guns. It helped enormously that I had data on my phone. I navigated to the relevant page and showed him my confirmation of Group 3 status. Grumpily, he handed me a turno ticket and told me to hold on to it. It must be important.

Getting vaccinated in Bogotá was pretty straightforward. Photo: Oli Pritchard.

Running late: Friday 14:20

The appointment will not be on time. We have moved around the corner, and I’m about 30 people further forward. After a little while, a security guard comes and checks with me, saying a Polish woman was turned away in the morning. I assure him that my papers are in order and he’s much nicer than the miVacuna guy was. He tells me that the system of appointments is useless. This is because the Pfizer vaccination is slowing everything down and also they have half the doses they should have. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not.

Moving along the queue: Friday 14:40

“Cédulas, consent forms and turn tickets in hand,” barks the head security guy. Twenty or so of us are called forward to check those three things. We’re let into the mall. For a minute it’s not clear where to go, we really are in the mall with all the shoppers. Eventually, a miVacuna shirt pops up and beckons us over to the side, downstairs, along corridors and all the way into the car park. 

There we are asked again for the consent form and verbal confirmation of EPS, although there’s no further check of the turn ticket or eligibility for vaccination. There are four lines for vaccination – SinoVac (first), SinoVac (second), AstraZeneca and Janssen. I choose Janssen and walk through to the first available seat. There’s no pressure to go one way or the other, although I imagine you’d have to show first vaccination proof if you wanted SinoVac two. Things are going smoothly so far.

A bit more waiting: Friday 15:30

Good thing I brought a book to read. This is by far the longest period of waiting and it’s not clear what’s happening. A lady eventually comes round to check our papers – she looks at the screenshots I’ve taken of my confirmations, takes my cédula and confirms my registration. She stamps and signs her part on my consent form. Doesn’t want to see my certificado laboral, so that was another waste of time too. On the other hand, there’s a dog in the queue, so that cheers me up.

Getting vaccinated in Bogtá: Friday 16:00

We’re called up, finally. Our consent forms are taken and back into the mall we go. This time we’re really in it, riding on escalators and everything. We arrive at a third-floor lot that’s been commandeered for vaccinations. This is it, the final boss stage. Our cédulas are taken from us and we’re asked to wait for a couple of minutes, before being brought into the room. There are three nurses there and 20 seats. We’re lined up in rows of five, but there are still three empty seats. The head nurse apologetically tells us that we have to wait to fill the twenty as the vaccine comes in rounds of five. That’s the most explanation I’ve had all day, I think. She runs through the basic details, does anyone have conditions etc or feel bad?

From here it’s fast. Two by two we go to the front, get a solid jab (I really felt it in the muscle) and that’s it. After a few minutes, everyone gets their vaccine documentation and cédula back. Mine has been filled out wrong, so I request a change, fearing officious immigration types in the future. That’s quickly done and the party is over. Two and a half hours after entering the line, I’m blinking into the setting sun and strolling to the transmi. It could have been worse.