Cramond Beach, Edinburgh

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…

Cramond Beach, EdinburghI 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…

COMMENTS
  • John McNaught

    REPLY

    Trust, that vital component we all seem to be lacking. How insulted would you feel that having sacrificed your “normal” to develop and deliver such a world saver people doubted your effort in any way. Well said.

    December 3, 2020
  • Vickie

    REPLY

    Hooray for the vaccine! I also cried when I heard – and will always remember where I was, sat with Felix in his high chair while he ate lunch, while in quarantine waiting for his Covid test result to come back. (It was negative, as was the one we had this week…)

    I’m so very, very grateful to science. I’ve found it so interesting to watch the progress and read reports, it actually makes me wish I had a scientific mind so I could change career path ???? Do you watch Dr John Campbell’s videos? He makes everything very clear, such a good teacher.

    I really hope Terry can have a vaccine at some point. God I miss soft play.

    December 3, 2020
  • Fi

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    I am so sick of the stupid people on Facebook that I have started reporting as fake news any comments that say the vaccine is dangerous or the virus is a hoax or anything similar. Just tap on the comment, choose report and select False News as the reason. I am not sure that FB is doing anything about it or even cares, but it makes me feel like I am doing something to stop the spread of misinformation. And yes I am becoming an increasingly grumpy old woman thanks to this pandemic.

    December 3, 2020
  • Natasha Merriman

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    YES! YES! YES!

    December 3, 2020
  • Amy

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    Thank you Amber, for speaking up and making such a clear statement on this issue. It’s unfortunate that there has been so much doubt cast over vaccines (particularly by those in positions of privilege). My immediate and extended family will all be rolling up our sleeves for it too.

    My son is just a few weeks younger than your Max, and we found out when he was 8mth old he has a primary immune disorder (enzyme is missing that helps B cells mature, so no antibodies are produced). He almost died. His immune system is now supported with weekly infusions of immunoglobulins (populated with the antibodies of plasma donors) so he can otherwise lead a normal life. But COVID-19 antibodies won’t be in there yet. I hope plasma donors are required to have the vaccine, to protect my son and other vulnerable people. Even better if we have the herd immunity around him, so his body doesn’t have to be put to the test confronting this virus.

    Thankfully we live in Western Australia, which feels like a magic bubble of relatively “normal” life compared to the rest of the world. Thank you as always for your wonderful writing xx

    December 3, 2020
  • Anne

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    December 3, 2020
  • Sacha la Bastide

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    Amen.

    December 3, 2020
  • Elaine

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    With you 100% And they more people who say this the better – we need this message out to all doubters,

    December 3, 2020
  • Brenda

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    YES! If you’re first in line, I’ll be second for sure! Everything you said here is so true. There’s way too many vulnerable people in my life to wait on this. And there is no need wait, either.

    December 3, 2020
  • lalie

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    With several strains of covid 19 already identified, it seems we are not at the stage of a “universal vaccine” some news are trying to portray. Same way as there is no “one flu jab”. Very interesting studies from molecular epidemiologists to read about, hopefully most strains and mutations do not affect the virus, but they are still working on the subject. It s not resolved.

    December 3, 2020
  • Anita

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    Very VERY well said Amber. I’m an NHS GP and am delighted about the news of the vaccine, both on a personal level (it will finally be safer for me to see my extremely vulnerable dad!) and on a professional level (I’ll be able to do my job without fear that I’ll inadvertently kill a patient or vice versa!). The amount of doom-mongering around this, even among people who should know better, is simply STAGGERING.

    December 3, 2020
    • Emerald

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      Some of the abuse, verbal and sadly probably other types, that the medical professions have been enduring is shameful.

      December 3, 2020
  • Emerald

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    Couldn’t agree more. I have had it with the idiots who call *us* Covidiots just because we’re wearing masks and social distancing to protect not just ourselves, but *others*.

    And I can’t get all this Bill Gates is the Antichrist business. I don’t know the man personally, but he seems to be doing a good job in terms of promoting and funding vaccines. I think many people are unsure of others’ motivations in the past ten years, especially since certain individuals who will remain nameless have come to light re: all the money they raised for charity so that no one would question them.

    I agree that we can, perhaps should, be mindful of what we put in our bodies at other times – I turned down steroids, for example – but this is a completely different scenario. And as you say, no one’s just flung a few things in a. test tube and said “Hey, this’ll do!”

    December 3, 2020
  • Miss Kitty

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    I am torn about getting the vaccine when it becomes available. Not because I don’t think it’s safe, but as an asthmatic I have a fairly low immune system already thanks to the medication I take to control it, and I have had very bad reactions to flu vaccines before, which is why I no longer get them. On the other hand, there is talk that airlines and countries will not allow you to enter without having a ‘Covid vaccine passport’, and I have been waiting to move to Australia since March this year. Part of me thinks I should just get it over with, another part of me does not want to go through weeks of illness again ????

    By the way the CDC also has a good fact page for anyone who’s interested https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/vaccine-benefits/facts.html#:~:text=It%20typically%20takes%20a%20few,enough%20time%20to%20provide%20protection.

    December 3, 2020
  • Fiona

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    Everything you have said is on point. Another reason why they have been able to make this work is because for the first time scientists all over the world shared their research. I only wish this continues. Like you it amazes me people rely on social media for their info on this vaccine ???? aunt Fiona

    December 4, 2020
  • Amber D

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    Absolutely this! Thank you for making such a clear stand on the issue. I know people who have been working on this vaccine. They are good people who just want to help in this dire situation and they will only do so when they feel they can safely provide it. They are not being irresponsible or unsafe.

    December 4, 2020
  • Lisa

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    I’m absolutely waiting for the vaccine to be approved in Germany – unfortunately, I’m likely one of those people who will have to wait for it, since I’m neither working in medicine/as a teacher/etc. nor part of a group particularly at risk. But since I have to travel a lot for work and don’t have a car (so, trains all the time. Yay -.-), I plan to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Also, I want to be able to hug my family without thinking about it; living alone in these times sucks. My last hug was months ago :/

    December 5, 2020
  • Sandra

    REPLY

    I can’t wait for the approval in Germany! I want my life back, want to travel again, I absolutely don’t want to catch the virus and I also want to protect others. So YAY for the vaccine!

    December 8, 2020
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