Them or Us

The EU is having this weird spat with AstraZeneca at the moment, and the UK seems to be piggy in the middle.

AZ signed a contract to provide so many COVID vaccines to the EU. AZ has plants in Belgium and the Netherlands which it had earmarked for production, and they can’t keep up.

AZ also has plants in the UK, which are supplying the UK with the vaccine.

The EU thinks that the supplies earmarked for the UK should be diverted to make up the shortfall. So, that’s the extent to wgich the UK is involved – the EU wants AZ to reroute supplies which would otherwise be destined for the UK.

Yesterday, I saw stories about the EU introducing export controls (presumably they want vaccines made in the EU to be reserved for EU citizens, which seems strange when it has strict rules about protectionism) and today, I saw a story about checks on the Irish border (which is the land border between the UK and the EU).

Doesn’t all this seem a bit silly? I mean, we’re in the context where somebody could carry the virus, quite easily, from UK to EU, or vice versa, so does it not seem silly to be worrying about who gets vaccinated first?

And it makes me realise that this is a whole lot bigger than the UK and the EU. It could happen between any two neighbours. One has the vaccine and one does not, but because borders are porous, what difference does it make, who gets the vaccine first? Plus, of course, airline travel allows us to fly globally, so the spat is not even restricted to neighbours.

I suppose the cynic in me recognises that politicians will be elected by their own people, so their care stops at that point. But surely the one thing the pandemic should have taught them is that there is no them or us?


I’m not sure how they are prioritising vaccines in the UK. If you look at the media, it is by age, although the media is notorious for dumbing things down. My wife (a nurse) is due to administer vaccines (her first time with COVID, although she gives flu and baby jabs all the time) next week. This, apparently, is to “over 80s”. So if we’re delivering by age, that’s where we’re at.

Last week, I received my first COVID vaccination. If you’re interested you can read about it here but it is sufficient to know that although it was above-board, it was completely by accident. I was, for once, in the right place at the right time. I’m 53 and despite the stroke, I’m not considered vulnerable.

So how could this be? The sessions are for over-80s, and yet a 53yo gets jabbed? I have asked myself this same question.

It is one of those scenarios where you think differently, depending on whether you are thinking from your own perspective, or from the wider “public health” perspective.

From a personal perspective, of course I was going to be vaccinated, as soon as it was offered. At present, who would say “no”?

I do think it is a big flaw, however, that we have not drawn up lists of people, with some kind of priority rating. We haven’t done this. There is some loose arrangement to prioritise people, now, by age, but there hasn’t really been much thought about it.

I’m not fussed who would come up with that list, although doctors’ surgeries would seem to be a good starting point. They. after all, already know about the most vulnerable people in society, because they are regularly prescribing meds for them. I repeat, this has not happened, at least, not in any coordinated manner.

This task should have been started last March – I think a lot of questions arising from the pandemic will be “why did they not do x sooner?” – in the full knowledge that sooner or later, this would be a real problem. And, if manpower were a problem, hire people. There were plenty of people at the time, with nothing better to do.

Now, doctors’ surgeries will not have known about people’s occupations, so the story doesn’t end there. But once those initial lists were in place, they could have been expanded to incorporate emergency workers, supermarket workers etc. Any other sectors chosen to be “high priority”. In that way, they could have gradually built up a picture. And the more time available, the better the picture could have been, the more factors could have been taken into account. So, when a vaccine finally did arrive…

It wouldn’t be perfect. There would be holes. But it would be a better system than phoning the nurse’s husband to ask if he wanted the jab. There would be cases like mine, because no system is perfect, but they would be minimised.

I am incredibly forgiving toward our government in the area of COVID. The situation is unprecedented and they were bound to make mistakes. But this aspect is something that should have been foreseen by either the politicians or the bureaucrats, and this is just collating names. This isn’t challenging work – it’s not even in the same league as managing the pandemic itself- it should be bread and butter. It should have been somebody’s job to be thinking about this.

Out of the Blue

Wow. I was sitting here coding away, when I got a phone call from Mrs Bump. If you remember, she is a nurse at the local surgery.

Apparently, the surgery have been given a small amount of vaccines to e.g. vaccinate the local nursing home. Well, they did that, and had some doses to spare. The vials containing the vaccine are supposed to contain eight doses, but some contain as many as eleven, so it is a bit imprecise.

Now, knowing that, what I would have done is to come up with some kind of “standby” list, of vulnerable people who were able to visit the surgery at short notice.. Because once prepped, the vaccine must be administered within a few hours, or it is useless

But… organisation? NHS?

The upshot is that 45 minutes ago I got a call from my wife. Because they unexpectedly had some spare doses, they first vaccinated staff (so, my wife got her jab) and then put the call out to family members.

So, 20 minutes ago, I got mine. First dose, at any rate.

Upper arm, and must have been a tiny needle because I hardly felt it go in.

In the UK, this was the vaccine we commonly call the Oxford vaccine. International readers might know it better as the AstraZeneca vaccine.


Six hours later. Both my wife and I have felt a slight burning sensation on the site of the vaccine, but as far as I am concerned, I wouldn’t even describe it as “uncomfortable”. She has also mentioned a slight nausea, but I have felt nothing.

The Rocket Effect

Just thought I’d share this data which I updated this evening. This is the number of COVID cases in our village. The increase over the christmas period is about tenfold (compared to, say, pre-December). But I’ll just going to share the image and let you provide the commentary.

As far as I can tell, our area is absolutely typical of all UK areas.

You can click through to a full size image if you like but you can probably get the gist from the smaller image.

The Reason for COVID

Our health agency provides quite granular data about confirmed COVID infections. The number they like to use is the number of cases in the last week.

When we had our first lockdown from March to roughly September, the highest that number got was to 9. That’s in an area roughly our village and the closest 2 or 3, about 8,000 people. Most of the time, the numbers were so low, they held them back.

They publish these numbers daily, a few days in arrears. Yesterday, the number of cases between 23rd – 29th December was 32 – that’s about a 3½-fold increase on a value that was the maximum for six months. And I fully expect that number to go even higher when they publish the next batch later today.

Now, I’m not a big user of Facebook, but yesterday evening I went on and published these numbers. I wanted to cause some introspection – am I mixing with people I don’t need to be?, am I going places I don’t need to go?

There was the usual proportion of dumb responses – that’s why I steer clear of Facebook these days.

Scattered in amongst the dumb ones were some really heart-breaking ones – I lost my partner of 26 years to this back in November, so people need to take it seriously. Or, my fit-and-healthy daughter had it, and is still recovering

Of all the responses, one in particular stood out:

Who made you the boss?

That’s why.