Sunday, May 26, 2024
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Jabs need more punch


I HAD the Pfizer vaccine last Wednesday.

I’m not sure that Pfizer would have been my first choice but my options were limited by a lack of intelligence.

Should I have waited to try the other two vaccines? That’s the serious dilemma facing us in Brexit Britain. Now that we are no longer in the EU, millions of Britons are suffering from Spoilt for Choice Syndrome, as the BBC’s Despite Brexit correspondent might spin it.

It’s a worry. What if Pfizer, being German, have just sent us the rotten end of the batch and kept the good stuff for themselves, like they did with wine? I’ve had enough Liebfraumilch, thank you. I’m not falling for that trick again. Ideally, I’d have waited until Which Virus? magazine had bench-tested the Pfizer, Oxford and Moderna brands and given its recommendations.

So my trusted source of information was the nurse who tipped me off during my chemotherapy session. Nurses are my trusted sources these days. I love the doctors too, but nurses know you without having to look at a screen and that’s an all-too-rare quality these days.

Get down to the day surgery for your Covid vaccine, my Matron mentor said. I had to give it a few days to wait for my immune system to recover from three days of Folfiri infusions. Otherwise there would be no antibodies in my blood to be triggered by the invasion of rogue mRNA.

Come Wednesday, I’d sufficiently recovered from the cumulative fatigue of a sixth successive session of chemotherapy and had just enough energy to shuffle along to the hospital for my jab.

It being the NHS, I had to be misdirected twice before I found the Day Centre. To be fair, the man on the door sees me so often he must think I work there, so he sent me up to the fifth floor, which seems to be where the staff get their injections.

Still, I got there eventually. Two people at the desk: both lovely, so I hate to quibble, but it seemed a bit like overmanning given that their job is to meet, check your NHS number and direct you to a seat.

The paperwork is minimal. One sheet of A4, with about 11 unchallenging questions requiring simple Yes/No answers. Luckily, I’ve never had allergic reactions and I’m not pregnant.

If having cancer, taking immuno-suppressant steroids for chronic wounds and being in the middle of chemotherapy aren’t complicated enough to rule me out, there can’t be too much to worry about, can there? Answers in the comment section please!

I do wonder about the speed at which these vaccines have been produced. My own experience of drug development, as a volunteer in Phase IV of a drug trial for a new type of painkiller, is that they take decades before they get to the stage of testing them on humans.

Still, here we are with three vaccines produced in record time. The queue for Pfizer jabs was amazingly short for an NHS waiting room. There were eight people in the room, all men of my age (say late fifties or early sixties), some of whom had already been seen and were being observed. I was called within ten minutes.

Two friendly, efficient nurses in the room. One explained the vaccine and answered all my questions. The other tried to find out my medical history from the other hospital, which doesn’t store patient information in the same format.

I was injected and out of there in in ten minutes.

Suffered no side effects, apart from a slight ache in my shoulder. I did have agonising stomach cramps, but that was probably down to my herniated, devastated bowels (I had a stage IV tumour removed) rather than the vaccine.

It was all pretty painless and pretty efficient. If the Door Man at the main entrance could learn to send people to the right part of the hospital, it would be really good.

However in the hour I was there, they seemed to have processed only seven people. That’s not a massive hit rate.

If we are going to fight this Virus Opponent by leading with our jab, we might need to snap our punches out a lot more quickly.  

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Nick Booth
Nick Booth
Nick Booth is a freelance writer.

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