A General Practitioner is the English term for what in other countries is called a Family Doctor. She rang us up last week to offer us vaccinations, asking three questions: are you fit and well; have you had a flu vaccination in the last week; have you had allergic reactions to anything? Then we were offered the vaccination appointment, which we accepted. We asked one question: which sort? and the answer was: Pfizer.
Several days later we received official invitation-to-be-vaccinated letters. Redundant, because we had immediately after the phone call received confirmatory text messages, but reassuring anyway. This morning we went to the clinic. As we came down the London street and approached the door, one of the three masked attendants standing outside came towards us, saying our surname out loud, and that he had guessed it was us, since we were due at that time, and were coming to be vaccinated together. After a very brief chat about whether our neoprene masks steam up our glasses (no) we were motioned inside. There we were met by another three masked attendants. One of them took our temperatures, another asked if we were feeling well, while the third, seated at a computer recorded our details and printed cards for us. We had to disinfect our hands. We were given a card each with name, date of birth, National Health Service number, and date and time of second vaccination appointment 70 days later.
In the next room were patients, all masked, seated at separate chairs, waiting to be allowed out after observation. We were beckoned forward by a further attendant, and at the end of the corridor by another, and finally yet another who asked us to stand together at an appointed and marked spot, 2 metres from the other person waiting. Every attendant wore a mask, and gave cheerful greetings. This area had two or three attendants.
Soon we went into a room where two chairs were provided. There we met what appeared to be the Vaccinator in Person, with her attendant on a computer. The vaccinator gave an excellent, clear explanation of the procedure, and the likely side effects, and the pain killers which could be taken in the case of pain or headache. To my great satisfaction, she said that the protective effect would be pretty good by two weeks and would continue increasing thereafter, and that the second vaccination would be up to 10 weeks later and would add to the protective effect. I should have recorded her, but at least I commended her afterwards. We were given a detailed document about the vaccination we had received.
Then the vaccination itself, quick and painless, afterwards taken to a waiting room with one other patient, and monitored for a while. The time of vaccination had been written on sticky labels stuck on the back of our hands. It felt like about 7-10 minutes, but we were checked by attendants twice during the period, whatever it was, and there was time to use mobile phones, scan the explanatory document and put jackets back on. A last an attendant opened the exit door to let us out of a side entrance (the whole thing was one-way flow) warning us the rain had made the wooden ramp a bit slippery, and that was it.
It ran well, was welcoming, and even had a holiday feel to it, as if we were there for vacation, not vaccination. The explanations were particularly good. In the context of a raging European Union argument about whether the United Kingdom, having signed contracts with AstraZeneca at least three months ago and paid in advance, should nonetheless divert UK production of vaccines to Europe, so that despite having been late to strike a deal, and only now being willing to approve the vaccine, Europe could get its fair, moral and reasonable share, it was hard not to feel pride that Britain, however much it may have screwed up the management of Covid (valuing freedom over public health controls) had at least redeemed itself by being ahead of the curve with securing vaccines for its people.
Indeed, most major European Union countries are so far behind Britain that even normally long-suffering Europeans are wondering quite how their governments screwed up a simple matter of procurement. Britain’s total vaccinated exceeds the European Union total.
Those to be vaccinated this morning were elderly British, mostly singletons, more women than men. The attendants were middle aged. There was at least one cheerful Australian, but these things cannot be helped.