I am not a fan of Health Secretary ‘Door’ Matt Hancock. He is, I believe, one of the few genuinely caring and relatively honest members of Boris Johnson’s cabinet of the untalented and he seems to mean well. I take everything Boris Johnson says with a large pinch of salt, specifically because he is a serial liar. But Hancock said something today that allowed me to dream that the coronavirus nightmare could be coming to an end. “We’re going to get a summer that everybody can enjoy,” he said.
Putting to one side that there will be at the last count 75,000 people who will not enjoy next summer because they have already died from the virus and several million who will struggle to put bread on the table, never mind have a holiday, because they have lost their jobs, the general point is a fair one. We could be back to something approaching normal in a few short months.
This will obviously depend on a few things. The first thing is that the vaccines are safely and efficiently carried out in a short space of time. The second is that there is a huge take-up. I feel that both scenarios are likely. Here’s why.
It is not Boris Johnson who is personally distributing and issuing the vaccines. That will be down the British Army and the NHS. I don’t think you can ask for better than that. You can, in my view, absolutely guarantee a wonderfully professional and efficient job. I have no doubts about this. And because getting the vast majority of people vaccinated is the best and quickest way of ending lockdowns and tiered restrictions, most people will be persuaded by the experts Michael Gove once told us people in this country had had enough of.
Scepticism about vaccines normally comes from fear. What are the long term effects? Has it all happened too quickly? If it’s that safe, why doesn’t Johnson have the first dose? And that’s okay: I get fear. I was very slightly fearful many years ago when the disgraced Dr Andrew Wakefield lied about the damaging effects of the MMR jab (there were none). But I strongly believe in science. And, yes, I believe in experts. And it’s their job to convince people that their fears over the vaccine are unfounded.
Just imagine if most people refused to be vaccinated and life carried on as now for next year and perhaps forever? Because, make no mistake, a low uptake would still mean that the NHS could be overrun unless the country maintained restrictions on its citizens and many thousands of people would continue to die unnecessarily. Do we really want that? Shops and schools opening and closing every other week, holidays being cancelled at short notice and then having to isolate when you get home, restrictions in numbers at weddings and funerals and no haircuts for months?
It’s likely that COVID-19 will be forever and that taking the vaccine could become an annual event, as with winter flu, but the prize is that we get our lives back. Meeting up with relatives and friends, going to gigs and sporting events, going on holiday and all the other things we took for granted until 2020.
I don’t think it’s a particularly hard decision. I’m not in the first flush of youth and the vaccine would allow me to do the things I so want to do before I grow too infirm and then die. My guess is most people will end up feeling the same way. And even if Boris Johnson says the vaccine is a good thing, it won’t put me off having one. It could be the first thing he said that was actually true.