Superb care home staff get vaccine this week, as anxiety spreads over virulent new strain. But with salvation in sight, older people more than ever still have to dodge that bullet

by Colin Campbell

A YOUNG person I know who works in an Inverness care home learned last week that she and other staff and residents will be vaccinated on Thursday.

Care home staff who have done an incredible job over the past 10 months in the most stressful conditions not only need to be vaccinated but, if you look on it as some kind of reward as well as a necessity, fully deserve to be at the head of the queue.

It’s not mandatory to have the jab in the care sector.

In the home where my friend works several staff won’t be having it on medical grounds, mainly related to pregnancy. One or two others won’t be getting it either, at least for the time being, because of uncertainty over how safe it is. That’s their prerogative.

When I last checked on an online calculator it could be late April or early May before I’ll get an armful. That time will pass but it still seems quite a long way off.

However, that was before the arrival of the Oxford vaccine, which can be stored at normal fridge temperature rather than the minus 70 degrees centigrade of the Pfizer vaccine, which understandably causes difficulties for health authorities, so that gold embossed, in my mind at any rate, letter giving me a date, a time and a place could arrive in the next three months. Here’s hoping.

The emergence of this new mutant strain has alarmed everyone I know.

As if there weren’t enough unanswered questions about the virus the latest threat greatly exacerbates anxiety and uncertainty.

Over 60 cases have been reported in Inverness in recent days and the spread of the pub related virus outbreak in Dingwall has now affected more than 20 people.

There has also been anecdotal evidence of outbreaks in Alness, Invergordon and Beauly.

It may be alarmist to say it’s running rampant but its prevalence is surely impossible to downplay even by those – not the extreme and wildly eccentric conspiracy theorists – who have not been too exercised by it in recent months.

The apparently increased risk of airborne transmission by the new strain is worrying.

The overwhelming number of people under 50 who do contract it will not suffer any serious effects. A young relative of mine who caught it was back at work within two weeks of the initial diagnosis, as was his partner who also contracted it.

But for older people it’s different.

The prospect of the vaccine in the offing only seems to step up the need to stay free of it. I still don’t like to use wartime analogies even after the terrible year we’ve had. But catching it and ending up on a Raigmore respirator anytime over the next few weeks and months could be akin to being hit by a bullet just before peace is declared and hostilities come to an end.

For those of us in a medium or high risk category aged 60 and beyond vaccination can’t come soon enough.

When you reach your mid 60s each year becomes that bit more precious. I may live to be 110, though I rather doubt it. But physical wear and tear catches up with you and retaining good health is at least partly down to your luck.

Younger people will eventually shrug off this traumatic period and with all their lives ahead of them will look back on it as a difficult time but no more than a serious inconvenience.

Older people, and I’ve spoken to plenty, feel we’ve already lost or been robbed of a precious year. We are left with all our future plans in limbo.

The blessed vaccine offers us the chance to start again ticking off the box list of adventures still to be undertaken and the new experiences to cherish.

As we enter 2021 right now the situation seems more desperately bad than ever, but the end is in sight.

But before we get there, we still have to dodge that bullet.

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