Why I won’t hesitate to get the Covid-19 vaccine the second it’s offered to me – and think everyone who’s eligible should do the same…
Well, here were are, folks: it’s the edition of The Lockdown Diaries I’ve been waiting nine entire months to write – the one where a vaccine is finally approved, and we all live happily ever after, THE END.
I was in the kitchen, waiting for the kettle to boil, when I heard the news that the UK will start rolling out the vaccine next week, and I’m not ashamed to say I had a little bit of a cry to myself: not because I think this vaccine is going to instantly make everything better again (As someone at low risk from Covid-19, it’s likely to be a while yet before I get it, and we’re not sure if Terry’s condition will ever allow him to have it…), but because, for the first time in the course of this whole, horrible year, there was a glimmer of hope. Which, let’s face it, is badly needed around about now.
Ever since the very start of the pandemic, back in March, I’ve known that a vaccine was going to be our only route out of this: that no matter how many lockdowns – and local lockdowns, and restrictions, and revised restrictions, and regional-revised restrictions – were put in place, all of them would really just be kicking the can a little further down the road: buying us a bit of breathing room, sure, but not bringing the nightmare to an end – or even anything like one.
For that reason, I’ve always viewed this as a long-term kind of thing. So, for us – and for the millions of people like us who have family members in the extremely vulnerable groups – 2020 has basically just been one long, continuous version of lockdown, and while some parts have undoubtedly been harder, and stricter, than others, we’ve never reached a point where we felt able to return to “normal”: not even when things gradually started opening up again back in the summer, and everyone around us seemed to rush right back to the restaurants and salons we were still too scared to visit.
With Terry’s compromised immune system, and my parents both in a more vulnerable age group, it just wasn’t worth the risk: and we always knew it would remain that way until the day a vaccine was delivered. Because of that, we’ve both been following the progress of the various vaccine trials (Or, at least the three main ones, from Oxford University, Pfizer and Moderna) closely for months now – which is why neither of us will have any hesitation at all in having the vaccine as soon as it’s offered to us. I have my sleeves rolled up RIGHT THE HELL NOW, in fact. No, seriously, I do…
I will take the vaccine because everything I’ve read about it encourages me to believe it will be safe: or as safe as ANY vaccine can be, anyway. I’ll take it because I know it hasn’t been “rushed through”, as people keep claiming: it’s been through the same rigorous testing and approval process as any other vaccine in use today – it’s just done it faster, because of the huge amount of funding and manpower that’s been thrown at it: oh, and because it’s been developed in the middle of an ACTUAL PANDEMIC, meaning there was no shortage of test subjects, either.
Every time I look at social media right now, I seem to come across yet another person confidently stating that this vaccine can’t POSSIBLY be safe, because MOST vaccines take 10 years or more to develop, and this one has taken just nine (comparatively) short months. The fact is, though, vaccines don’t normally take such a long time to develop because they can’t be done faster than that without compromising safety: they take that long largely because of the years on end that can be spent applying for funding, recruiting people for trials, and navigating red tape – all of which was able to happen so much faster in this case because there really wasn’t time for it NOT to. And isn’t it truly amazing and awe-inspiring to see what our scientific community can achieve when all of the obstacles are taken out of their way? I think so.
Most of all, though, I will happily accept the vaccine when it comes because of all of the people who CAN’T have it.
As I said, right now we have no idea whether or not people like Terry, with severely compromised immune systems, will be eligible for the vaccine: or ANY of the vaccines currently in development. At the time of writing, there are a lot of contradictory reports on whether or not the immunocompromised will be able to be part of the vaccination programme (Terry has literally just read out two different reports giving totally opposite verdicts on this in the time it’s taken me to write this post: so THAT’S a helpful and reassuring way to end our day, for sure…), and if it DOES turn out to be the case that Terry can’t receive the vaccine, it means that he – and the many others like him – will be forced to rely on herd immunity in order to be able to resume anything like a normal life.
The most vulnerable in society need the rest of us to step up and help protect them: not to sit back and take advantage of the immunity the vaccine will (hopefully) provide us, without doing anything to actually contribute to it. I’m obviously – OBVIOUSLY – no scientist, so feel free to disregard everything I’ve said above if you want to: all I ask, though, is that, if you’re on the fence, you at least do the research for yourself, rather than just parroting the phrases, “It’s been rushed through!”, “But most vaccines take 10 years!”, and “I’m not going to be the guinea pig for it, everyone else can have it first!” that are currently doing the rounds on social media, all uttered as if they’re actual, indisputable facts, as opposed to simply the opinions of people who – like me – are not scientists and don’t actually know what they’re talking about.
As for me, meanwhile, I’m just sitting here with my sleeve rolled up, ready and waiting for the moment I can finally be stabbed in the arm with a sharp needle – and probably start ugly-crying right afterwards from the sheer emotion of it all.
All I want right now is to be sitting in a dingy soft play centre, with a cup of lukewarm coffee in front of me, watching my child attempt to eat something he just found on the floor, without worrying that we’ll all die because of it. Or sitting crammed into an economy class airplane seat, with one of those tiny bottles of wine balanced precariously on the tray table, and someone repeatedly kicking me in the back, en route to a cheap package holiday in the Canaries.
I’m not asking for much, in other words: just that everyone who is eligible to receive the vaccine when they’re offered it takes the time to read up on the facts, and make a truly informed decision about it, so that people who won’t have that choice can have at least SOME hope of having a life again. So that this isn’t forever. So that my child can go to school one day without us having to worry that he might bring back a virus that kills his dad, and so that we can know we did our best to make the world a place he can grow up in without all of the fears and horrors that have marked this dragon of a year.
Don’t trust Facebook.
Don’t trust Twitter.
Definitely don’t trust the Daily Mail (on anything, really, let alone something as important as this…), the guy who delivered your ASOS parcel and wants to remind you of the horrors of thalidomide (Which WASN’T EVEN A VACCINE, FFS…), or your neighbour Stevie’s friend, Jim, who once caught a really bad cold after having his flu jab, and now doesn’t trust anything those doctors tell him.
Don’t even trust ME, for that matter: I mean, my degree is in English Literature – what the hell would I know? (Other than quite a lot about Macbeth, to be fair…)
Trust the science. Trust the hard work of the brilliant people who’ve dedicated the last nine months of their lives – on top of many long years of learning before that – to creating a vaccine that could just change our lives. Then meet me at the soft play, so we can raise a cup of really quite terrible coffee in a toast to their achievement…