THE FACT OF THE MATTER
I feel like I am in a sci-fi movie, that one from the 1980s, Cocoon, about what happens when the senior citizens of a retirement community discover the ‘fountain of youth’.
Having parked our cars in the designated area, we are all heading towards… towards our fountain that offers hope. A new beginning. Some walking with great strides and determination. Others shuffling along, walking sticks to hand. All aged between 65 and 69. Being ushered along by a platoon of helpers with their yellow safety vests and face masks.
It is a day like no other day. Our first jab of the Covid-19 vaccine, 14 months after the world and its 7.8 billion humans were effectively felled by the rogue microbe. When the sheer horror of our universal predicament sank in, it felt like we were doomed. The end of the world as we knew it.
Now, there is hope in the guise of vaccines, and we now get to live another day and return to a normality of sorts. Jesus, but wouldn’t you love a pint in your local, right now.
So, here I am. My time has come. But there is apprehension with my sense of relief. Apprehension because I and my fellow travellers are to be given the AstraZeneca vaccine, the one with question marks hanging over it because of reports of it causing blood clots, in certain cases fatal.
Following advice from the European Medicines Agency (EMA), Nphet directed that AstraZeneca should not be given to anyone over 70 or under 60 because of the potential risk.
Forget 60 being the new 50s — 60 has become the new lab rat. Here we are, being ushered along
to get our first jab — a jab that might result in a fatal brain clot but, or so they say, you’ve a better chance of being struck by lightning or a wayward truck, or winning the Lottery.
I do know, however, that the renowned Mayo Clinic says that Pfizer and Moderna and particularly the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine also carry the very rare risk of clotting.
I know too that the number of AstraZeneca vaccines we have access to in Ireland equals the number of us aged 60 to 69 multiplied by two. Waste not, want not. Let’s keep the lab rats moving.
As I write, though, a change in the roll-out plan may see the over-50s also get the AstraZeneca shot and the one-shot J&J be assigned to the 30 to 50 cohort.
But here’s the thing. Of all the check-in kiosks I could have been ushered to — seven in fact — I get No.1, and of all the make-shift little rooms for vaccination — 10 — I am told to go to No.8. All things happen for a reason, someone once said.
Declan is my vaccinator. A tall, amicable man, with a friendly smile. He checks my photo ID, notes down my social security number and date of birth. He then iterates the ‘normal’, possible reactions to the jab — tiredness, headache, sore arm — and then talks of the clotting business.
I know, I say, anxious to get it over with.
You may know, he says, smiling, but I am obliged to tell you. The chances of a blood clot are four in 1.25 million. I must get a lottery ticket tonight, I think.
Before he asks me questions, about underlying health issues and any previous reactions to medicines, and notes my answers on his iPad and shows me the tablet giving him, literally, the green light to go ahead and put the needle into my fleshy upper arm, Declan tells me the following, rather matter-of-factly when I ask him what he does in his day job.
He did a science degree at DCU in the 1990s and then his Masters at the University of Strathclyde, a Masters in the research into respiratory drugs being carried out by — yep, happenstance — AstraZeneca. You couldn’t make this up.
AstraZeneca, he tells me, has the longest science behind its Covid jab, that the coronavirus is largely an attack on the respiratory system. The divil you know and all that.
I leave Declan and his legion of unsung heroes, their professionalism and organisational skills beyond question.
Thanks for being there, I shout to all. And with a sense of renewed purpose, I emerge into the warm sunshine that now seems warmer, and I think if the HSE did haircuts …