From John in Brighton, UK: Dilemmas

27 January 2021

First off having renounced my contributions to COVID2020diary as the year expired should I rise like a phoeniix amidst the ashes?   Or in zeitgeist lingo it’s a bit of a U turn – call me Boris if you like but I’d rather you didn’t. After all it is my first and he must be nigh on double figures and mine’s hardly the end of the World, unlike some of his for many poor souls. Would that all dilemmas be that simple –  I’ve decided to make some sporadic contributions to the ongoing saga that is COVID2020diary. Perhaps that could mutate as efficiently as the corona virus and re-emerge as COVID2021.

The driver to write is when a major event happens and it has as evidenced by two esteemed co-diarists covering different aspects in the last three days.
Immunisation, vaccination, a little prick (no, not him) or the jab as favoured by TV reporters. The name matters not but it’s significant on two accounts, the first being that for the first time, as far as I recall, we should be espousing praise as our vaccination programme outstrips the rest of Europe put together. To my surprise Michael Gove hasn’t (yet) claimed that it’s down to Brexit but that most incompetent of ministers Gavin Williamson was quick to say how it shows what a great country we are.  On that score yes Gav….shame about our childrens’ education. I have an alternative theory and it’s arguably Boris’ coup de grace for the whole of Covid to date. He appointed the rather vapid Nadim Zahawi as vaccine deployment minister and he is sufficiently inert that for once it’s left largely to NHS staff to organise and administer vaccine roll out. This has been done much more by locality than Test and Trace which I’m sure underlies the significant progress albeit with pockets of pique from those who feel left behind.

In this neck of the woods the relatively elderly folk of Chichester are understandably carping today at the absence of a vaccination centre within their city. But it’s gaining pace on its very ambitious schedule and I’d suggest it’s probably the jewel in the corona of Covid management to date – mind you it’s nothing but tat to date as the current statistics bear testimony to.  There seems to be a very clear algorithm of priority based on clinical need and having so far administered a first dose to 4,266,577 despite the NHS being at breaking point is an amazing achievement. I’m in tier 4 so should be called up by Valentine’s Day apparently. My daughter being on a respiratory / Covid placement got her’s last weekend and took a gulp at the last line of the contraindications booklet – “we don’t know of possible long-term effects of the vaccine” so we bear no responsibility,… just sign here. A bit of potential grist to the anti-Vax cohort.

So there’s the second dilemma – to be or not to be when the call up letter comes? The very few deaths after vaccine have been reported in the elderly with serious underlying disease and are probably unrelated and meanwhile a centre for “long Covid” is about to open locally.  So notwithstanding a small risk of adverse effects from the vaccine the scales are heavily tipped in the direction of “ayes to the right”. Bring it on.

My third dilemma is the most tricky. They’re crying out for volunteers to support the roll out of the programme. I can almost see Lord Kitchener’s chilly stare and index finger pointed at me. My country needs me, how can I refuse? First off I decide that if I have the vaccine – Pfizer, please as it looks to be a bit more effective and wait three weeks then I’ll take the risk even tho’ I’m “highly vulnerable”. Then there’s the acid test aka daughter who won’t go in the same house as me or even share the car for a brief trip. I break it gently and…..she doesn’t throw up her arms and tell me I’m mad but a much more muted “I wouldn’t but I can see why you would ”. That’s as strongly a yes as I can hope for. So I send an e-mail to express an interest as long as I’ve been immunised. Perhaps they’ll fast track me or perhaps they’ll tell me the last thing they want is to risk burdening the NHS with yet another of the clinically vulnerable.

The automatic response from the Mass Vaccination Team Sussex tells me they’re inundated with applications so there’ll be a delay before I get a response. Anyway too late…forget it for the moment and watch the news at 6 last night. First the good news –  over four and a quarter million have received their first dose of vaccinations to  date serves only to fuel my enthusiasm to contribute. Then the bad in that 1610 is the highest number of deaths in a 24 hour period since the pandemic began. Then we have the second of Clive Myrie’s very powerful reports from the London Hospital – Monday’s interspersed the grave diggers amongst scenes within the hospital and yesterday he kicked off with a visit to the hospital mortuary.

And doubt is being cast on the 89% protection afforded by a single dose of Pfizer vaccine with Pfizer themselves saying the single dose only prevented 52% of infections and it needed the second jab to reduce infections by 82% and severe disease by 89% (the provenance of our Government’s figure). If this information is accurate (my source is the Daily Mail online hence my slight reservation) then it puts a cat amongst the pigeons for ongoing prioritisation. Indeed the WHO have said that they do not support the UK approach and the second dose should be given within 3-4 weeks or a maximum of six. And of course we follow the science…..when it suits. 
It’s not so cold out today but regarding my volunteering my feet are feeling about as icy as Kitchener’s eyes….