First Covid-19 Vaccination

First Covid-19 Vaccination

I heard that the Bulgarians were willing to vaccinate tourists against Corona, so the day after I arrived in Varna I set off to find out if it was true. I found the location of a local medical centre, and after a short walk arrived at the address. There was a chemist adjoining the clinic, so I thought I would ask there first. Using a translation app on my phone, I explained that I was a visitor from Australia and asked if there was somewhere I could get my first Covid-19 vaccination. The woman took my phone, read the message, frowned and shook her head. With my eyebrows raised, and looking like a bit of a dickhead, I started pointing in all different directions, attempting to ask through interpretive dance whether there may be somewhere else that could help. She shook her head, though I wasn’t sure whether it was because I looked like a dickhead or because there wasn’t anywhere I could get vaccinated in Bulgaria. I took my phone back, and feeling slightly disheartened, decided to try next door at the clinic.

The clinic appeared to be abandoned, but the door was unlocked so I wandered in to see if I could find anyone. In an office at the end of the corridor was a woman in what looked like nurses garb. I hovered at the window of her office, and when she had finished on her phone she looked up and slid the window across. I gave her my phone, she read the message, and frowned. Things were not looking good. Perhaps I had been given a bum steer?* Maybe vaccinations were not available for tourists in Bulgaria after all.

The woman disappeared, and I stood at the window, again feeling like a bit of a dickhead. I was hoping she would reappear and give me some good news, or at least reappear and give me back my phone. After a while she returned, and motioned for me to follow her. We went through a door into an office where a young bloke was seated behind a computer. To my relief he spoke English, and I explained my quest. He didn’t know if vaccine was available to tourists, but he gave me the address of where the shots were being given, and told me to go and ask. I thanked him and left, feeling that it was all a bit unlikely that I would be able to get my vaccination.

Apparently the vaccination clinic was located behind the hospital, but when I arrived at the address I couldn’t find it. There was a tall wrought iron fence, and behind it a deserted car park and rather decrepit looking building. No sign saying ‘Covid-19 Vaccination Centre’ or anything similar in Bulgarian, English or any other language. The place looked abandoned. So I walked around to the hospital, queued in the administration area, and asked the staff for directions through the translation app. Speaking no English, the lady gestured to me to walk out the front of the hospital, turn right, turn right again and proceed around the side of the building to the decrepit looking place in the deserted carpark with the rubbish and the weeds. Seems like I had the right spot after all.

I have no idea why this video is so huge. I spent ages trying to figure out how to format it and eventually gave up

I walked up to the door and peered in. The foyer was deserted, gloomy, and hadn’t had a clean since Bulgaria was part of the USSR. Near the door stood a table with some forms scattered across it and a solitary pen. I paused, thinking that perhaps I should just forget about getting vaccinated and leave the place before I picked up some other infectious disease. I heard a voice from upstairs, so decided I had come this far and I might as well keep going. I climbed the stairs into another decaying room, where two girls were seated on well-worn chairs. I sat down too, hoping that someone official-looking might turn up. After a while a door opened and one of the girls went in, and when she reappeared shortly after a nurse followed her out. I presented the nurse with my phone, who said something to the girl, who turned to me and with a furrowed brow and great concentration said ‘come back tomorrow morning at 10’. Things were looking up.

I duly returned the next morning, and upon entering the dingy building found a couple of blokes standing inside holding white forms. A door that yesterday looked like it lead to a Cold War panic room had been prised open and voices could be heard from within. One of the blokes motioned to the forms on the table near the door which I had seen yesterday. Needless to say they were in Bulgarian so I wasn’t equipped to fill one out. I waited until the other two had entered and re-emerged from the room with the voices, and then in I went.

The room was surprisingly bright and tidy, and a nurse and administration officer were inside. I passed my phone to the nurse, who then spoke to the admin lady, who then spoke English to me. She was very helpful, and whilst studying my passport assisted me to complete the form. She then asked which vaccine I would like. I asked which they offered, and she reeled off five different names. Not only was Bulgaria going to help me out with a vaccine, but they were also giving me a smorgasbord of options. After hearing the dramas Australia was having trying to source vaccines after Astra Zeneca had got on the nose I felt like royalty. I chose the one with the shortest time span between shots, and the nurse administered the injection so skillfully that I literally didn’t realise she had done it. I was given a card which listed my first and subsequent vaccination dates, and was told that if I had the second shot in Bulgaria then I would be issued with a certificate.

Step one complete

I thanked the staff for being so helpful, then walked out having had my first Covid-19 vaccination without being asked for a stotinki (cent). How good’s that?

*being given a ‘bum steer’ is an Australian expression meaning to have been given incorrect information, either by mistake or intentionally

if you enjoyed this post, you may also like: Second Covid-19 Vaccination, Air Travel in the Corona Age

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