From David Maughan Brown in York: May Day

Route to handy vaccination centre

May 1st

May Day.  Variously, and somewhat contradictorily, regarded by some people as a celebration of the fertility and fecundity of Spring, deriving in part from the Roman festival of the flowers, Floralia, and by others as marking the transition from Spring into Summer.   The day the cows could safely be put out to pasture because the winter was finally over.   Given that the April just passed has been the first on record to boast a damaging frost every single night of the month somewhere in the UK (in our case an allotment on Low Moor in York), the farmers may be getting cold feet on that score.  If they don’t, the cows certainly will as another frost is predicted for tonight.   There won’t be too many people dancing around May-poles today:  a 5,000- strong maskless rave in a very large tent has been scheduled as a government-sponsored Covid-19 infection trial, but there won’t be room for May poles.

The particular significance of the date for me is that it is now exactly three weeks since my second Covid-19 vaccination, so I am technically about 90% safe from being infected, give or take any of the global variants busily developing around the world in an effort to thwart that statistic as the pandemic rages on.  But I wouldn’t be dancing around a May pole even if there were one in the back garden.   Being vaccinated isn’t going to make much difference to the way I live my life for some time to come.  Nor was the vaccination experience itself a particularly celebratory occasion.

When I had my first vaccination I was given two different dates for the second one: Easter Sunday, 11 weeks after the first one, or the Saturday after that.  When I hadn’t received any formal notification reminding me about the second one by Good Friday, I set about trying to establish which was the correct date.  A long story later I was directed to a website which told me brusquely and entirely erroneously, with a disapproving virtual finger wagging in my direction, that I had missed the date for my second one already and needed to book another one.  It then offered me a generous array of vaccination sites to choose from, which didn’t include the York vaccination centre three miles away.  Distances, I am helpfully told, are measured in a straight line; roads in the UK tend to have the odd bend here and there.  The closest was the Rimmington Pharmacy in Bradford, said to be 29.8 miles away, which I assume must be owned by a Tory friend of one or another Tory MP or cabinet minister in Westminster.  If I didn’t fancy Bradford, there was an option in Hull 33.2 miles away, and one in Darlington 42.7 miles away.   Perusing the list, I was torn between the attractions of the one in Bishop Auckland (54.5 miles away) helpfully ‘located in-between care home and GP surgery’ and the one on Cemetery Road in Darwen, 59.5 miles away – in fact 73.7 miles away by the shortest route if one doesn’t happen to be a bird – but I decided I should enquire further.

Another long story later, the Saturday date was confirmed and I set off for my 9.00am appointment needing to get back home to chair the monthly u3a Saturday morning meeting by 10.15.  When I got to the front of the queue I was mysteriously, but full of misplaced optimism, directed to much the shorter of the two subsidiary queues of eager punters waiting to be summoned to a booth.  In spite of being much the shorter queue, ours was static:  when a dozen or so people had been called from the other queue, with no movement at all from ours, it became apparent that I had been told to come on a Pfizer day for my AstraZeneca injection.   Nine out of the ten booths were offering the Pfizer ones, the tenth appeared to be having difficulty with a patient who must, to judge by the time being taken, have been trypanophobic.   Soothing organ music in a mediaeval cathedral might have helped better with the stress levels than a noisy tent in a carpark, but I did eventually manage to get back in time to log in and chair the meeting.  So not particularly celebratory.

Yesterday an NHS envelope arrived inviting my 42 year-old son in Cape Town to make an appointment for his first vaccination.  I forwarded a photograph of it to him and invited him to drop in for tea on his way.   In the meantime my 44 year-old elder son received a similar letter in York a few days ago and has been trying unsuccessfully to take its advice and book a vaccination.   So far the nearest vaccination centre he has been offered is in Wakefield (32.4 miles away) – presumably at a Tory-owned pharmacy somewhere near a crematorium.   It would seem the vaccine is in relatively short supply and that the York centre is fully occupied trying to inject second vaccinations into the arms of older cohorts.  So why the rush to invite younger and younger groups of people to try their luck booking vaccinations when they are very hard to come by – the required age dropping a year or two every day or two?  The answer is painfully obvious:  there are local elections in a few days time and our cerebrally challenged electorate has somehow allowed itself to be persuaded that the success of the vaccination programme can be attributed to the government rather than the NHS.   It wasn’t the NHS that generously and in all seriousness offered me a vaccination in Darwen, 73.7 miles away.