The GUM Jab

Paul Goncharoff

A few weeks ago I wrote an article out of Tashkent about the role garlic might have in battling Covid (as well as vampires, undesirably lustful overtures and gastronomy). I mentioned at the end that when or if an opportunity arose for an innoculation against this Covid bug that I was ready. 

As it happened last week I was online going through LinkedIn when I saw a note posted by Steen Sorensen, a well respected businessman I know here in Moscow. He mentioned getting a Sputnik-V jab against Covid-19 in the GUM department store! This of course grabbed my attention as it seemed a bit of a promotional stretch even for the enlightened and progressive management of GUM – I mean getting an injection in Russia while window-shopping Brooks Brothers, PINKO, or over a Latte!

Nonetheless, wanting to go out this past Sunday, January 24th and stroll the Moscow streets I ended up at that self-same GUM, and decided to test my luck with getting Sputnik-V immunized among the palatial fountains, cafes and boutiques. The burly uniformed guard at the entrance said I should go up to the third floor, first line of shops, and I should see a sign for Covid-19, probably just past Hugo Boss. Sure enough, even while walking into GUM I saw (courtesy of the office of the Mayor of Moscow) a nice sign offering jabs…. just follow the arrows. Wending my way up and through that bright airy glass-domed emporium I was greeted by a hostess, replete with latex gloves, facemask, and accesorized with a very fetching clear face shield who guided me through the procedure. I told her I am American and didn’t have my insurance documents with me. She said that didn’t matter. The time was 11:15 a.m.on a Sunday, and there were about 9 people ahead of me with more drifting in every few minutes.

Nothing can be considered Russian if there isn’t at least some semblance of a line, and so it was here as well. Expecting the usual, I resigned myself to a boring wait as they provided park benches, and I can take a hint. The bench hint was misleading as by 11:23 I was politely ushered to the reception desk where I had to produce my passport. The pleasantly charming receptionist entered my passport data into their computer system, after which I was asked to fill in a questionnaire and risk disclosure form (all in Russian). The time was now 11:36 and I was already seated outside the “injection office” with my completed questionnaire form in hand.

While seated I was able to observe at the other end of the room where “injected” patients exited the procedure room. Each had an exposed arm with a nice (somewhat large) cotton puff taped to their shoulder… vets – been there, done that. The waiting room newcomers watched them intently, one woman even asked “Nu?” out loud, to which she got a thumbs up sign from the injected fellow. This was minimalist communication at its fullest – where a “Nu” and a thumb said it all. The injected person was then asked to sit for 10 or 15 minutes before leaving “just in case”. The intent was to catch any sudden potential adverse reactions like an allergic reaction, vomiting, nerves, flatulence, or any other disturbing responses.

Happily I did not see any, nor were any reported from that location at any rate. In fact, the incidents of negative reactions have been about the same as for any flu shot, are mild, usual post-jab aches and fuzzyness enjoyed in the privacy of ones home.

My turn came at 11:42 where I was interviewed and looked at by the doctor, questionnaire reviewed and some further related questions asked and answered. Then it was time to roll up the sleeve and get the jab. Bingo, and it was done, no fuss, fast and I was out the door back into reception with my stamped certificate of innoculation in hand. I was then told that my second shot which is mandatory has been scheduled for February 14th (St. Valentines day) at an appointed time. While waiting for the negative reaction time to pass I was handed a rather tasty vanilla ice cream with chocolate glaze on a stick, along with a smile and a thank you for coming.

Perhaps I am just a jaded New Yorker at heart as when I left I felt something just was not right in the world. I came there without an invitation, was well received, warmly treated, not bullied, injected, given an ice cream, and sent packing at 11:58 with a smile. All that in 43 minutes and for free? What’s the catch? There wasn’t one. Very disorienting. So now between the garlic cure and the Sputnik-V injections I should be good to go and girded against anything here in Moscow!

Paul Goncharoff

January 26, 2021