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.