Australia has received its first shipment of Pfizer COVID 19 vaccine and the AstraZeneca vaccine (which was developed in part by the CSIRO)  was officially approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration [TGA] on February 16, 2021 to join the Pfizer vaccine as part of Australia's virus defence.

The vaccine is offered free to anyone who wants it, and Australia's effective public health system has already been demonstrated throughout the pandemic.  The plan is to have the frontliners in hospitals and the quarantine hotels' workers vaccinated first. The vaccination rollout is planned to start next week.

However, Australia's Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly acknowledged that the level of vaccine hesitancy was “concerning” just a week before the first Pfizer vaccines is to be rolled out.  He conceded that the health authorities need to continue to stress the vaccine as being safe and effective. The government is allocating $24M  for the campaign to dispel fears and fake news, as well as unfounded claims by anti-vaxxers.

Our stance here at The Australian Filipina is that it must be a choice by the public to be vaccinated or not, with good information provided to those with pre-existing ailments.

We previously featured Kobelaine Dizon a kababayan frontliner who is based in Abu Dhabi and has received the vaccine.  In this article, we speak to Shennie Eser, who has been in Singapore for more than seven years now and who works as a Nurse in the Emergency Department of a large hospital. She is glad to share her responses in a Q&A interview to give an insight into her outlook and life in Singapore, the COVID 19 situation and her experience in receiving the vaccine. 

VIEWS ON LIFE

What do you hold fondly in your heart as your achievements in life?

Being resilient and independent, these are the greatest personal achievements for me. I am very proud of the fact that I have been able to withstand tough times and challenging situations especially that I am working in a foreign country. Also, being independent in a sense that firstly, I learned to prioritised myself before others. It may sound selfish, but if I don’t fill my gas tank first, I cannot carry passengers. This is like if I did not take care of myself first, I will end up sick and unable to work and unable to fulfil my responsibility as a mom. Love yourself first before you can love others.

Second, independent in a way that I understand my finances. I learned how to budget, invest and save. And lastly, independent because I am competent with what I do especially with my work.

On the flip side, what challenges/difficulties did you face and overcome?

Oh, I have a long list but I can give you my top three. Third on my list, teenage pregnancy. I got pregnant at the age of 18 years old. Since I was so young back then, I received a lot of negative criticisms and some already judged me. At that time, I just focused on my goal which is to finished my studies and find a job for me to be able to support my son. In continuation with that and second on my list is being a single mom and OFW.

I really wanted to be a part of my son’s life but I needed to sacrifice and chose to work abroad to be able to provide him a better future. Being an OFW is really not a joke. It is depressing and painful to be away from loved ones. There’s always the fear of the unknown since I am in a foreign land and to add it up there’s also racism that I sometimes encountered here in Singapore. I managed to overcome these because I have the support and love from my family. Even though I am distance apart from my son, I am relieved because I have my siblings and my mom to guide him. With regard to the loneliness that I felt here, I am lucky to have relatives and friends in Singapore that are always ready to listen and be with me when I needed them.  Bonus is the awesome technology, nowadays it is very easy to communicate with my family in the Philippines.

My biggest, saddest and top 1 on my list was the sudden passing of my dad. He died of heart attack last 2016. Before the incident, I thought that my faith in God was strong and unshakeable. However, I was wrong. My heart was very easily filled with anger and hatred.

I stopped taking care of myself, my relationship with my siblings and close friends turned sour and I discontinue going to church. Basically, I stopped praying. The turning point was when I saw my mom and her relentless faith in GOD. When my father died, my grandmother (which was my mom’s mom) also died the following day. Imagined how painful it is to let go both husband and mother. However, despite of the tremendous pain that my mom felt, her faith in God remains and became stronger instead. She leaned on to God and trust Him no matter what. I felt ashamed to myself and that’s when I slowly started to talk to God again and ask for His forgiveness. I also fixed my relationship with my siblings and friends.


If there is anything you did  or experienced in the past that can be changed, what would they be?

Frankly speaking, I do not want to change anything. All those failures, rejections, mistakes, loss, bad decisions and grief, these are all part of me. Whatever I encountered, either positive or negative, these molded me to be who I am now. These experiences taught me to become much braver, stronger and wiser.


What else do you wish to achieve in life?

To be in a same place with my son. I really wanted to be part of his life so I am hoping to be with him so that I can guide him more.


What is your definition of success?

 Success for me is to be happy. It is when you wake up every morning and you are happy that you are alive. Regardless of how much money you have in your bank account or what kind of work you do or whatever difficulties that you are facing, you can still say that you are happy.


COVID 19 SITUATION

How is the situation in Singapore and in particular where you  reside?

I would say it’s under control. The government handled it pretty well. First and foremost, they already have a playbook. Like before the crisis, our hospital already has policies and workflows set up for this kind of problem. Then when the Covid 19 started, the government responded fast and aggressive. The screening to identify positive cases were thorough. They also have super-efficient contact tracing that is why they easily detected positive cases and able to isolate those who were exposed.

Moreover, how they communicate with people is also highly commendable. They are very transparent like they will tell us where we at in dealing with pandemic, what is happening, what may happen and how they can help the people. These really help in alleviating the anxiety of Singapore population and lead to trust the government more. 

However, since the COVID 19 is not totally eradicated, we maintain some restrictions. Currently, we are at phase 3 which means we need to continue to adhere to safe management measures like limiting number of visitors at home or group in public (max 8 pax). We still follow safe distancing and we need to wear mask. Aside from these, we are now using Safe Entry app or token every time we enter and exit establishments. In this way, it will greatly help in strengthening and to speed up the contact tracing.  They already open the borders but need to serve 14 days stay home notice/quarantine and do swab test. Also, Singapore already started to implement the Covid 19 vaccination program which is free to all Singaporeans and long-term residents in Singapore.


How is the Filipino community handling the impacts and restrictions due to COVID?

With or without restrictions, there’s no problem with Filipinos following the rules here in Singapore. How Pinoys cope with the effect of crisis, I think most of us face it with humour and positivity. In times of trials, we are known to always try to look at the brighter side and despite the hardships that we are facing, we still manage to smile. Example of this is issue with travel ban, Pinoys will say “It’s okay, atleast we can save money.” Another issue is missing family, Pinoys will say “I miss my family, let me video call them.” Also, feeling sad, what Pinoys will do is call or message friends and schedule meet ups. These are the things I observed with Filipinos here in Singapore.


What was your vaccination experience like? 

I was actually working on the day I received the vaccine. I was on morning shift and I was scheduled to take the jab after my work which was at 4pm. Before receiving the vaccine, I need to fill out an online declaration to make sure that I am not included in the exclusion criteria. The exclusions are as follows: pregnant women, severely immuno-compromised persons, with active cancer, and children under the age of 16 years old. For those who have allergic reactions to medications or food, must see the doctor first before receiving the vaccine. For lactating moms, they need to abstain breastfeeding for a week post vaccination.

After submitting the form, on January 29 I received 0.3mls of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine via intramuscular injection (on my Lt upper arm). Then, post vaccine, I was subjected to observation for 30minutes as per protocol. Initially, I felt giddy minutes after receiving the vaccine so I slept for the whole 30 minutes in the monitoring area then I felt better afterwards.

However, when I reached home, I started to have headache and felt very exhausted. I was supposed to work the following day but since I still have the headache and still feel tired, I decided to take a sick leave. I got better after resting and increasing my fluid intake. For my headache, taking painkillers really helped me. Some of my colleagues have mild allergic reactions to the vaccine, but after few days, they also got better.

My second dose is scheduled on February 24.

Would you recommend for everyone to have it?

Yes, definitely! The vaccine is not only to protect yourself; it is also to protect your loved ones. The more people received the vaccines, the harder it will be for the virus to spread and it will lessen the chances of transmission. This will help to achieve are goal which is to go back to our normal ways where we don’t need to wear mask all the time and we are safe in the society.

 

ABOUT SHENNIE ESER

Shennie Eser is the eldest of four children, with three sisters and a brother.  She is 36 years old, a single mother and was born in Manila, Philippines. Her father who was a captain of cargo ship, was from Nueva Ecija in Luzon and her businesswoman mother is from Iligan City in Mindanao, Philippines.  After her parents got married, they settled down in Manila.

She did her first year of nursing degree in the Far Eastern University and later transferred to the Mindanao Sanitarium and Hospital College where she completed her Bachelor’s degree in Nursing. At the start of her career in the Philippines, she worked as an Emergency Room [ER] Volunteer Nurse, ER Specialisation Nurse, ER Nurse, Ward Nurse and then Back Office Analyst before transferring to Singapore in 2013.

Her first job in Singapore was a Staff Nurse in a nursing home. She missed the adrenaline rush that she experienced in ER so she decided to apply in the hospital when her contract ended. She was successful in her application so from 2015 up to the present, she has been working as Emergency Department Nurse in one of the largest hospitals in Singapore.

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