A difficult decision

Each week since the start of lockdown I have had a zoom call with family members. Represented in that call are seven countries stretching from Finland and Denmark, through Europe to the UAE and Hong Kong. Each has had its own interpretation of lockdown and its own philosophy on vaccination. It is difficult to understand why there is no consensus derived from combining the experience of what is most effective in every country, that is until one listens to the almost patriotic fervour with which each defends the approach of their own territory.

There is surely no more striking divergence of opinion in relation to Covid than the controversy in relation to the Astra Zeneca vaccine. Denmark will not permit it at all, Spain not for the over seventies, Germany not for the under sixties and of course the UK not for women under 30. There was never a more important time for a united approach.

Now we hear that the Johnson and Johnson vaccine has been withdrawn temporarily. How can anyone prove or disprove the cause of six cases of clotting or one death out of 6.8 million people or occurrence out of the 20 odd million in the UK and safely blame it on a vaccine?

On the one hand we have the independent regulator in most countries approving the vaccine while the media and in particular individuals on social media who seek to justify the opposite point of view.

After a professional life where I placed my faith in the UK’s regulator, even sometimes when a radical change of direction proposed was uncomfortable to accept, I still could not be deaf to the debate about the AZ vaccine. While one life lost in a million seems such a small risk, it could be a death in my family. That for me was always the basis of professional decision making. I asked myself “what would I do if this patient was my mother or my child”.

As a vaccinator, found myself made uncertain about the use of the Oxford vaccine. My personal dilemma was whether I could continue to inject it and remain part of the programme and how to evaluate the risks.

I know a young mother and know of the father of an unborn child who died of Covid. And I know those who have suffered Long Covid which left very fit young people seriously ill. Covid is not just a disease affecting older people.

The vaccination programme has saved thousands of lives and tens of thousands from serious and often life changing illness. This outweighs the unproven incidents of which it is blamed. The UK’s decision not to use the Astra Zeneca vaccine on young women is a wise precaution at present and has helped in my decision to carry on.

The fact that I am insured and that the NHS ultimately takes responsibility for my actions plays no part in my decision. I do it because I believe it to be the right thing to do.


Trevor Twohig

As I mentioned in a recent message, local Author Trevor Twohig offered some books as a token of gratitude to the volunteers. The introduction was made by Vicky Feaver who some of you will know. Below is a note from Vicky, words of thanks from Trevor and the names of the winners.


I’ve only know Trevor a few months & completely by accident too I guess! I happened to come across his first novel called Sunny Sands & when I realised it was based in our gorgeous town I posted about it on Facebook and it went mad! Everyone started buying it, reading it and commenting on it, it was crazy!

Then Trevor got in touch with me to thank me for mentioning his books and we’ve stayed in touch. So of course he’s also been on my volunteering journey with me which leads to why he wanted to just say thank you to you all for everything you do for others.


Some things in life supersede the pull of a hometown, the desire to succeed or the relentless pursuit to stay afloat in this topsy turvy world.

There were times over the past year, when I have lost hope, when the life raft had sprung a leak and it all seemed too much to take in, to process and to handle.

It is in these times that I believe we are gently guided towards the light, towards hope. We are tribal beings, drawn towards community, to serving others and to love.

This modern COVID crisis caused us to question all of this, our faith in what we know to be right.

The light comes from helping the homeless. It comes from litter picking on the beach with your kids. It comes from volunteering to administer a vaccine. To help our communities towards a brave new world where no one knows or understands what the future may look like. But the desire is there for good. The desire to save lives. The desire to love.

So, three books is not a sufficient gift for the volunteers who deserve so much more. But it’s something. Love perhaps. Thankyou to you all!

Trevor Twohig

So with the help from Joe, Trevor has picked 3 random numbers from the volunteering list & the winners are:

Lesley Anderson

Howard Cocker

Andy Quittenden

Congratulations! We’ll be in touch with you about how to collect your signed copy of Sunny Sands, Crimson Cross or 2 Wolves

You can find out more about Trevor & his other works at http://www.trevortwohig.com

Well done everybody, keep up the great work & big thanks to Trevor for the kind prizes.

Euphoria is replaced by anxiety

I was there on the opening day of the Civic Centre and again the first day of Debenhams just ten weeks ago. How life has changed in those very important weeks, yet is seems so long ago especially on such a hot spring day as I write.

In those dark days in January we were just heading into a very windy spell, followed by a wet spell and then an extremely cold period, at a time when the oldest and most frail in our town were coming for their vaccine.

I feared for the vulnerable patients to be out for the first time in a year, in the bitter cold and was amazed that the volunteers remained so cheerfully willing especially at the Civic Centre. Now we must remind everyone to use sunscreen.

Those early days were emotional times. People who has been isolating for a year were so pleased to be vaccinated. But we were all still very much living in fear of the virus and delighted to be witnessing the start of the recovery.

Last week when I was vaccinating there was a very different atmosphere in many ways. I checked myself many times fearing I have become a little complacent. I like most of us there have had my second dose of vaccine so it is right that we should have confidence in what we are doing but it is important to remember that no vaccine is 100% reliable – excepting today’s report from the US about Pfizer in the young – so there is still a risk for us all. In checking myself I was remembering that all of the large numbers of people passing through the building have not been vaccinated. Chances are that amongst the queues are some who are infected. We must still be on our guard.

I noticed also a change in the mood of those being vaccinated. Gone is the tearful euphoria at the sense of freedom which the vaccine immediately gave those early recipients. I recall how I felt immediately following my first jab so I asked my patients how they felt. The answers surprised me and my awareness was awakened in yet another way.

There is no doubt that the concerns raised about Astra Zeneca have damaged the reputation of the vaccine. More than one patient replied that they had doubts and delayed their injection while they did their research. Research for facts on social media on this subject is very difficult only serving to intensify fears. But gone now is the powerful feeling of which I wrote in an earlier post about the placebo effect of having the vaccine injected, to be replaced by resentment and lack of trust which may cause the nocebo effect of intensified side effects.

Are you excited to have the jab I cheerfully asked another lady but was surprised when she tearfully replied that she was very concerned. A few moments explaining how I felt after my jab and why, relieved her. She thanked me not for the vaccine but for those few moments.

Then there were the big muscular guys with arm muscles popping out for this painless jab. I haven’t spent all my life as a dentist not to know fear no matter how big the smile and that apparent nonchalance. Beads of sweat are a give-away. Few people look forward to the invasive procedure but right now the process of vaccinating has become more complicated.

There has been so much adverse publicity about vaccines; Astra Zeneca in particular, that anxiety is understandable even though over 35,000,000 injections have been given in the UK without evidence of the concerns being raised elsewhere. We all have to realise these real anxieties and spend a little time where necessary trying to ensure that patients are in as good a frame of mind as I was, and all the early patients were, to be injected back in the dark cold days of bleak winter when the future with vaccination looked so uncomplicated.

Planning for the mass centres was for speed and efficiency. Now it needs just a little more time.

Joe Sullivan