With the roll out of the Covid-19 vaccine, hopes are beginning to grow for a return to normality, after all we have known is a bleak uncertain reality for the last 11 months.
Most 20-year-olds are at the bottom of the list for the vaccination programme that started to roll out early December 2020. However, I was among the first five million people to receive the vaccine.
When I got the letter at the beginning of January, I felt incredibly lucky being 21 and at the top end of the list. No, I haven’t paid off an underpaid NHS worker nor have I wrestled a granny to the floor for their dose.
Being a support worker at a residential home has of course bought some anxiety since last March but has allowed me to bypass the majority of the population with getting vaccinated first.
Since March 2020, I have been working overtime in a home which is at high risk of Covid transmission, while most people my age have been stuck inside, stuck with redundancies, furloughs and TikTok dances.
The government announced in their vaccine rollout plan that the first band of vaccinations were to be given to “care home residents and their carers, people aged 80 years old and over, and frontline health and social care workers.”
“I felt lucky to be in the position most people in the country and most people my age are not.”
With intrusive thoughts of what conspiracy theorists on social media had claimed whirring around my brain, from the likes of infertility or perhaps growing an extra pair of arms (although that might actually be helpful), I booked my vaccine slot for the afternoon of January 22.
I almost got that feeling of a child on Christmas Eve, nervous of the unknown but knowing that what you’re going to be given is good. I woke up on the morning of the 22nd feeling like it was a dystopian belated Christmas day, excited to be injected with the covid vaccine. I felt lucky to be in the position most people in the country and most people my age are not, being in the first band to get vaccinated.It has been 80-year-olds and frontline workers including NHS staff, health and social care workers who have been called first for the national roll out of the vaccination.
With the government’s target to vaccinate the 15 million most vulnerable by February 15 met, prime minister Boris Johnson now seems hopeful that the NHS will vaccinate all adults with the first dose by July.
But that means the invitation for most young adults to get the vaccine are still months away.
I made an effort for the first time in a while, donning a fluffy bucket hat to disguise the ‘lockdown roots’ that have occupied my hair, visualising the picture of myself outside the vaccine hub.
With a bout of high-vis jackets donned by stewards and a sprawl of Zimmer frames, it felt like some sort of convention for pensioners.
The steward greeted me with sarcasm, saying I look good for 80, I joked back and said it was my moisturiser, although I hadn’t bothered with skin care in days.
With a warning to watch the 80-year-olds, and their sometimes questionable driving, I was shown the directions to the frontline workers entrance and proceeded to follow the instructions of not to run over anyone’s nan.
I parked up and entered the Farnham House entrance which is for frontline staff. With sanitising stations a plenty, I washed my hands for 20 seconds or the Happy Birthday tune that Boris Johnson has subconsciously stained my mind with.
What was once a cafeteria was now occupied by blue and purple uniforms and of course more anti-bac stations, very on trend of course.
I went to a desk to confirm my name and appointment time and was pointed in the direction of one of the available stations. I sat down and smiled at the nurses forgetting that my polite British ways do not transcend masks.
“To an extent I felt guilty.”
The station was manned by two nurses, one who took my personal details, and the other nurse got the vaccine ready and gave me some further information.
I sat there absorbing the information and nodding my head to the nurse who spoke about the uncertainty of whether booster injections will be needed or not, and the likelihood of masks still prominently being in our lives.
I was told I was going to have the Oxford (Astra Zeneca) vaccine, when I heard this it all came quite surreal to me. Knowing that something that has been spoken on the news for months, that many people are desperate for and some, not so much. But that I am about to have a little bit of history injected into my body.
The nurse predicted that we may need to wear masks and still vigorously wash our hands, but hopefully social distancing will come to an end.
The nurse asked my age, she reminded me that although I will have the vaccine, still, I have to abide by the government guidelines.
The nurse asked one last time if I am okay to have the vaccine. Of course, I nodded my head in confirmation,
And in a moment, it was done.All it took was a matter of seconds to be vaccinated against something that has wreaked havoc for so long. I was given a leaflet describing possible side effects and a card with my name, the vaccine name and batch number which I was told I needed to keep safe and bring back for when I get my next dose.
I was asked if I wanted a sticker reading ‘I’ve had my Covid vaccination’, bringing back nostalgic memories of when I managed to sit in the dentist chair without biting them.
“Of course,” I said.
With my 2021 version of a badge of honour I sat in the post-vaccine observation seating area, to make sure that I was okay to leave the building.
Sitting there in the realisation that I just received a little piece of history and sat reminiscent on the past year thinking of all the people who have lost their lives and what this vaccine might do for this year to prevent more deaths.
After 15 minutes, I was told I was okay to leave. I walked back out with my slightly throbbing left upper arm knowing that I am one step closer to becoming safer from Covid-19, and to be one step closer to something reminiscent to the normality we once knew pre-Covid.However, I am not alone being young and eligible for being in the first batches of people for the vaccine.
Kai Jackson, 23, a support worker from Hertfordshire who has also received the vaccine said: “At first I was quite hesitant getting the vaccine as there is a lot of vulnerable people that if they caught it they could be seriously ill or die, to an extent I felt guilty. Then I considered my colleagues and the residents I care for and their vulnerability. I realised that I’m not taking the vaccine away from others, I am doing my duty to care for people.”
Normality may still seem to be a distant memory, and at the same time uncertain in the future – but for me and others my age in the care industry, the vaccine has allowed us to be a step closer to being protected from the unpredictable, and sometimes deadly, nightmare of Covid-19.
“I got the vaccine to protect mainly my family and the clients I support, and also myself being networked, meaning I will be at risk more so than people who are able to work from home or be furloughed as I have to visit clients houses,” said Gareth Adaway, a 21 year-old a support worker.
“At the vaccine centre I was really surprised at how well it was organised and was happy to have my vaccine when I did, I felt unwell for a couple of days afterwards but no worse than if I have had the flu vaccine.”
With a death toll now over 120,000 and counting, the UK has become victim to the title of some of the worst death rates, the vaccine is the next step to end this seemingly never-ending nightmare version of Groundhog Day. Everyone has the responsibility to protect themselves and the people around them.
Sophie Saunders, 23, also a support worker from Hertfordshire said: “I found the process as a whole very efficient and easy. The professionals giving the vaccine were friendly and put me at ease. I’m quite lucky that all I had to deal with after was a headache and my arm ached a bit afterwards. Overall, it was a good experience, and I can’t wait to get my second dose.”
It has now been a month since I got my vaccine, rest assured I do not have a 5G tower protruding from my forehead nor an extra set of limbs (unfortunately). But what I do have is reassurance that I will be safer and better well protected against covid, and I have a sticker to prove it.
Roll on June 21st.
Featured image by Layla Nicholson.
Edited by Daniela Ferreira Teixeira and Susu Hagos.