From John in Brighton: The Jab

10 February

Back to to the 60’s  again and this time The Fab Four. I know The Marvelettes had the first cover but for me it’s The Beatles version that sticks. With apologies to the songwriters: Mister Postman, look and see   Oh yeah Is there a letter in your bag for me?  Please Please Mister Postman There must be some word today
From Matt Hancock so far away

Normally the arrival of the postman makes my heart sink rather than skip a beat – which bill haven’t I sorted? But Valentine’s Day is only two weeks away and that can only mean one thing – an invite for my vaccine as I’m highly vulnerable and in the so-called top four priority groups,.Currently it is quoted that 75% of adults in the UK would take the Covid vaccine. We should acknowledge peoples’ reservations whatever they be but for me it was a no brainer and the sooner the better – they could have told me injecting dishwater or bleach was effective and I’d have signed up for it. The first step on my release from Colditz. Saturday, there he is and still bearing a bit of Pat’s (my puerile metonym for all postmen) warmth, I rifle thro’ his offerings. The excitement gives way to despondency – junk mail, good news is no bills but the bad is no call up.  But Monday’s 1st February – odds on for a letter next week.  

But within an hour Jackie rings to tell me that all our food bank volunteers are now eligible for the vaccine even though I haven’ been able to partake for a while. It felt like I was slipping thro’ the back door but any flicker of guilt was about as transient as a flash of lightning. So I’d wasted half an hour of my life composing various letters to Matt if I didn’t get the vaccine on time but that’s a price worth paying. Not only that but she’s got the link and before you could say “Covid pandemic” I’m booked for my jab, as they say in the demotic, twenty four hours later. So by the time Pat next trudges up the garden path my immune system will already be grinding into action like a machine that’s sat furloughed for months on end. 

My biggest dilemma was how to get there – buses have been out of bounds in my mind as potential hotbeds of corona, memories of hours wasted queuing for the hospital car park rule that out and parking round the hospital is notoriously difficult with the traffic wardens about as sympathetic to hospital attendees as Boris Johnson is to hungry school children. Despite the strong wind  I opt for the bike as the safest and allowed an extra quarter of an hour in case of a puncture – there’s no way I’m not turning up on time for this. Triple check I’ve got the credentials – letter of invite (the decision to get a Smartphone six months ago is justified in one fell swoop), passport for photo ID and of course the mask.  Credit to the set up – well staffed, clear written information and a doctor on tap to discuss any uncertainties, social distancing and within an hour of the jab I got a text with date and time for my second dose. In reality not a jot was changed by the vaccine and safety measures remain absolutely imperative but psychologically there was a considerable uplift with a feeling that this was the start of moving forward – as Mao Tse Tung said “a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”.

For every please with which we importune the postman we need a thank you. First off thanks to Edward Jenner for introducing the first vaccine which was against smallpox which was killing 10% of the population at the time. He is said to have saved more lives than the work of any other human which epitomises the efficiency and safety of human vaccination. Thanks to Blossom the cow who provided the cowpox material for his early studies – her hide is on the wall of the St George’s Hospital Library if you want to pay homage. Fast forward 250 years and thanks to the brilliant Oxford team and volunteers (“other research labs are available”) for producing an effective and safe vaccine with such alacrity. Thanks to the MHRA for fast-tracking official approval. Double thanks to the Government – firstly for the foresight in ordering such a plentiful supply and more importantly for bypassing chumocracy and not putting Dido Harding in charge of rollout. Thanks to the JCVI for providing a clear strategy of prioritisation and to all the NHS teams who put that into practise in double quick time.  Thanks to all the staff and volunteers who cheerily gave up their Sunday lunchtime for the greater good. Thanks to Boris and Matt for not making guest appearances at my vaccine hub.

Should we feel guilty for ordering so much vaccine whilst European politicians and citizens are clearly at one in feeling aggrieved as they lag so far behind? And the third World is hardly out of the starting blocks. No we shouldn’t – we criticise the litany of errors, delays and U-turns so lets lavish the plaudits on those who so swiftly secured our vaccine supply. I’ve lost count of the vaccine supplies so my penultimate thank you is to the BBC who say that the UK has ordered 407 million doses from seven different suppliers. That’s surely well more than we need so could we start passing some to the EU who are clearly desperate – good for ongoing relations surely? I’d say no – we’ve got the worst death rate anywhere and surely the least we can do is start to redress that by ensuring full immunity to our population as soon as possible. And here’s a bit of cognitive dissonance – I voted to remain in the EU but I wouldn’t give them our superfluous vaccine. I’d pass that to the developing world who cannot afford the vaccine and where malnutrition, overcrowding and other hazards leave them sorely at risk and medical facilities are so limited. Last November we made a temporary (time will tell) cut to our overseas aid budget so perhaps this is the least we can do as a gesture of recompense.
So final thanks and let’s raise a glass to the world-beating, life-changing little prick……no, of course I don’t mean him.

2 thoughts on “From John in Brighton: The Jab

  1. How nice to read such an uplifting piece, well done. For the record although 407m doses of vaccine have been ordered from 7 suppliers, only 3 are on stream with approval. The rest are still in clinical trials and one has been put on hold altogether. So maybe we don’t have that many to start thinking about shipping abroad just yet.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Indeed, steps in the right direction. We, in Australia, don’t need to wait by the postbox since we have no idea when we will get the call. As ‘elderly’ we are phase 1b (14 million of us) after the health care workers (1.4 m). They are hoping to have all vaccinations done this year which does not sound very speedy.


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