You know when you’ve been waiting in a long queue, and, just as you’re practically at the front, someone closes the doors, draws a rope across, or says “Sorry, we’ve sold out”? Well, that is me with the Covid vaccine. The original target was to give over-50s, plus any younger people who worked in healthcare (and) or were extremely clinicially vulnerable, their first jab by April 15th. But we were steaming ahead, and my group, the over-40s were next in line. Two of my friends, both in their 40s but living in different parts of the country, had their first jabs last week. Yesterday morning, the word in my area was that some people aged 47, 48 and 49 had been called, and that people aged 45 or 46, i.e. including yours truly, could hope to hear within the next few days. I was so close to having that protection, to feeling that relief.
But then, yesterday afternoon, news outlets started reporting that the NHS had sent out a letter saying that there was about to be a big reduction in the number of doses of the vaccine available, and that vaccination centres should stop taking appointments. Next thing, Matt Hancock and the website for the local vaccination centre were saying that no-one under 50, other than those in other priority groups, was eligible to be vaccinated until further notice.
It’s transpired that a shipment of 5 million doses from the Serum Centre in India’s been delayed for four weeks due to production problems, and that a batch of 1.7 million doses, which we’ve already got, is being held back because of some sort of additional testing. The doses available are needed for second jabs and for people in the top 9 groups who haven’t been vaccinated yet. So, having been a few days away from getting my first jab, I’m now probably a month away. And it’s a significant month, as well: had I had my first jab in late March and early April, I’d have had my second in late June, giving me a lot more options for the summer holiday season.
Yes, obviously I do get that this is not about me. It affects everyone in my age group, including people who’ve got health problems, or who work in jobs which mean they’ve got a lot of unavoidable contact with other people. And, yes, I do get that the point of the vaccination programme is to save lives and avoid serious illness, not to enable people to go on foreign holidays. And, yes, obviously it’s better that it’s happened now than before we’d vaccinated the more vulnerable groups. And, yes, originally I didn’t expect to be called before late April anyway. But it’s still, so, so frustrating, to have been so near and now be so far!
There was bound to be a hitch at some point, and we’ve done very well to get this far without one. We’ve gone from having no approved vaccines available to trying to produce enough for everyone on the planet within a very short space of time: there were always going to be hiccups. And it was lovely to hear Boris praising the “herculean efforts” of the Serum Institute, rather than, as that deeply unpleasant woman Ursula von der Leyen keeps going, criticising the very people whose amazing efforts have offered us hope of a way out of this nightmare.
We’re still on target to give everyone in the top 9 groups their first jab by the middle of April, and to give all adults their first jab by the middle of July. The “roadmap” isn’t affected. Compared to, say, France, which recorded over 35,000 cases today, when we, with a higher population, recorded 6,303, we’re doing OK, touch wood. But, ooh, the frustration of being so, so close, and now knowing that it’s going to be at least another month! Sorry for moaning, but … gah!!