from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: ‘and we shall be changed’

24 April, 2021.

Nine days ago, we had our first Astrazeneca vaccination. A suite of offices, consisting of four rooms, beside our large doctors’ surgery has been organised into a vaccination centre.

The whole process was very simple, without fuss and with a certain determined cheerfulness. Outside the centre, yellow lines marked the approved social distancing for the queue. We could not enter until the waiting room was sufficiently empty for the next batch of people, so we were asked to wait outside until it was within five minutes of our vaccination time. No masks were required.

Once we were allowed into the small foyer, our details were checked and we were asked whether we were prepared to have a vaccination before we were given a sticker inscribed with our first names. Someone asked if they had had many cancellations. The young receptionist said, ‘Very few, and those appointments have been quickly filled.’ It seems to me that the scare campaign has not stopped us wanting to be vaccinated.

A nurse called us and led us through to one of the two vaccination rooms. Once more details were checked and once more we were asked if we were prepared to have the vaccination. Then a doctor came in and she asked if we had any questions. She also asked if we had had any reactions to previous vaccinations.

Page 1. Read carefully….

The actual vaccination was a non-event. Afterwards, we were given a three-page document listing all the possible side-effects and what to do if we were concerned about our reactions. We were then led through to a large waiting area which was divided into two sections: one marked 15 minutes the other 30 minutes. The 30-minute section was for people who had had some previous adverse reaction to vaccination. I sat and read through the rather intimidating listing of common, less-common and rare side-effects. After the allotted time our names were called out and we were told we could go out the exit door. DONE!

Our vaccination status is immediately registered on our digital Medicare profile. I am ready for a vaccination passport and almost ready to travel! (New Zealand authorities are looking at insisting on a digital proof of vaccination).

It is now nine days since our vaccinations. At first, my arm felt slightly stiff, Over the next four days I found that I was very tired, wanting to go to bed at 8 pm and reluctant to rise at 7 am. I was quite happy to collapse back and read awhile. This is unlike me.

Australia – not looking too impressive.

It behoves me to report on the media situation with the rollout of vaccinations in Australia. If you followed our media, you would think that there was a disaster going on here. It is true that announcments were made by the Federal government, and we were filled with expectations of a seamless vaccination routine. However, there has been a hiatus due to many factors such as the concern over the AstraZeneca vaccine, the delayed arrival of ordered vaccines and the shortage of the Pfizer vaccine. Each state premier was very quick to blame others. Of course. There is also the difficulty of organising between state and federal agencies. Many of these factors are beyond the ability of the federal government to change. But as I have said before, the Australian media love to complain.

On our ABC this morning it was almost as though they were encouraging people in the 1b category (those over 70 or over 50 with some sort of complicating factor) not to get vaccinated. The Victorian Government has opened mass vaccination centres. The ABC was critical of this whole process, siting uncertainties and saying it was hard for people to understand the online advice. In spite of this, I hear today that 67,000 people were vaccinated. And the graph of those getting vaccinated is pointing in the right direction. The government has announced that over 50’s can now go and get vaccinated.

The trouble is that we are still short of the Pfizer and AZ vaccine.

The federal government will receive 53.8 million doses of AstraZeneca, 50 million of which is being manufactured in monthly batches at the CSL factory in Melbourne.

Australia has secured 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, with the bulk expected to arrive in the final three months of 2021.’ ABC

The government has now appointed a military veteran, Royal Australian Navy Commodore, Eric Young, to coordinate the vaccine rollout. After all, it is a mammoth task across this vast country. Young said he has a ‘simple mission’ to get every ‘available jab’ into the arms of vulnerable Australians. Scott Morrison has put the national cabinet on a ‘warlike footing’ to fix the delayed program.

On the way back from having my vaccination Handel’s Messiah played on ABC Classic radio. It’s good to be cheeful.

Somehow, the music seemed appropriate.

…..And we shall be changed
And we shall be changed
We shall be changed
And we shall be changed
We shall be changed

For this corruptible must put on
For this corruptible must put on
Must put on
Must put on, must put on

From David Maughan Brown in York: Vaccination

Not quite York Minster

17th January

Soothing as a gentle organ accompaniment would undoubtedly be, one does not need the sanctified Gothic surroundings of Salisbury or Lichfield Cathedrals to benefit from the efficiency of the NHS’s roll-out of its mass Covid vaccination programme.   The Park and Ride car-park alongside Tesco at Askham Bar on the outskirts of York is more than good enough for me.   I wasn’t about to allow mere aesthetics to deter me when I received a text message on Friday inviting me to book an appointment for a vaccination.

Face-mask, passport for photo-identity, and booking reference (neither of which last two was actually needed) carefully assembled, we drove out to the vaccination-centre in good time for my appointment at 3.45, and by 4.05 were on our way home again.  And the twenty-five or so minutes we spent there included a compulsory 15-minute wait on one of the serried ranks of socially distanced chairs at the exit end of the marquee to make sure there weren’t any dramatic adverse reactions:  one wasn’t allowed to leave until the release time stipulated on the vaccination card had expired.   The efficiency of the process was made possible by literally dozens of volunteers: I counted six men in bright orange overalls directing the traffic; several others had the job of meeting the cars and escorting people to the marquee; then there were the receptionists signing us in, the stewards guiding us to one of the ten vaccination booths, and two people responsible for the vaccination itself in each booth; and, finally, a group of volunteers keeping watch on those waiting to be released and checking the vaccination cards as we left.  Everyone we engaged with epitomized the ‘care’ in healthcare.

I had been wondering idly whether it would be the Pfizer or the Astra-Zeneca version of the vaccine that was being rolled out in York, not that I minded either way, but I didn’t need to ask the question.  Having been directed to one of the five booths on the right hand side of the marquee, I was asked a few routine health questions, one of which was whether I had any allergies.   When I mentioned that some 25 years ago I had experienced an episode of anaphylactic shock as a result of an allergy to an antibiotic, the vaccinator’s assistant immediately scurried off to find a supervisor who came over and ushered me into a booth on the other side of the marquee.  The answer to the question I hadn’t had the chance to ask was ‘both’.  The booth I had originally been shown to was using the Pfizer vaccine, the one on the other side was using the Astra-Zeneca one.  I was left to conclude that the Astra-Zeneca version is the less allergenic of the two.

Welcome as soothing organ music might have been as an add-on, it was the efficiency of the whole process and my gratitude to the scientists and volunteers responsible for my passport to what might with luck turn out to be a relatively normal future, that achieved the necessary soothing.  And some soothing was necessary.  When I heard about the mass vaccination centres being set up, my immediate response was to wonder whether it might conceivably be possible that our third-team government had learnt any lessons from the crashing and burning of its much vaunted world-beating Test and Trace system, now sunk (at least from the media) without trace.  So when I saw that the text message inviting me to book my appointment via an electronic booking form carried the logo of our GP practice I was reassured that there wouldn’t be the same communication problem as there still is between then centralized and community testing processes.  Wrong again.  The booking form was the Hannibal Lecter of user-unfriendly booking forms.   I’m nobody’s idea of an IT expert but I can manage any half-intelligently put-together electronic booking form. After struggling with this one for literally 90 minutes, I eventually got through to the climactic point when it told me that my GP practice, the one whose logo headed the form, isn’t taking part in the mass vaccination process.

I phoned our GP practice at 4.30 and eventually spoke to a harried receptionist at 5.30, well after she was supposed to have gone home for the weekend.  She told me that a phone queue with 11 people waiting to speak to the practice had leapt up to 77 people during the afternoon as people received the offending text message.  She offered to book me an appointment the next day but warned that it would take her ten minutes to do so, as it duly did.  She had no idea when she would get home that evening and isn’t paid for any overtime.   I couldn’t bear to ask her how many people were still in the queue waiting to speak to her. When we eventually emerge from the current crisis, as we surely will, it will be on the backs of the innumerable receptionists, volunteers, doctors, nurses, scientists and other key workers who have managed to carry those of us who are left through to the other side, in spite of the venal incompetence of those who are supposed to be in charge.