On 9 December, both my 80 year-old clinic patient and I had a covid vaccine. He was my last patient in clinic, and we’d hit lunch breaks, so I said I’d take him down. We got his wheelchair up to quite a lick down the long corridor, and then out into the cold, drizzly rain to the academic centre. Normally it’s full of medical students and meetings; today one of the lecture theatres has been repurposed into a vaccine hub, with multiple vaccine stations, computers with appointment booking systems, and a general buzz of people.
Patients were being wheeled in from all over the hospital ward discharges, and from face to face outpatient visits. All over 80, many with hearing problems, some having just had their eyes dilated (adding quite a challenge to the consent process). Exactly the sorts of patients I looked after in the first wave, in our covid recovery unit for older people, of whom quite a number did not survive.
My patient shook his head in disbelief as we stood there in the queue. “It’s quite fantastic this has been done so quickly,” he said. “You just can’t believe it.”
After we’d navigated the various stations (prescribing, wait, vaccination, booking) and I’d delivered my patient safely back to his wife in the clinic to wait out the 15 minutes, I returned for my own vaccine. (Truth be told it was via WHSmiths for a chocolate bar, because in my books anything that requires a needle also requires a chocolate bar.)
I stopped to have a chat with one of our super-physios who had been vaccinating patients, and one of her colleagues. “Did any of yours cry?” she asked her colleague. (Cry? I thought. Was it that bad?). “Lots of mine did. They just couldn’t believe that they’d be able to go out again soon.”
The buzz and hum of hope from staff, after months of flat, grey, resignation to the task. A vaccine!
One of our legendary front of house doctors, Mahir Hamad (photo), was there, prescribing and moving staff through the separate staff hub (also the medical student common room until very recently). Recently recovered from an admission with covid, he no doubt should still be resting at home. “I’ve had meningitis, typhoid, lots of things,” he said. “This was the worst. I thought I was going to die.” I said how delighted we all were he’s recovered. We were all worried too—there are no secrets about who is sick with it—at the moment it’s like a large family.
I was checked and double-checked for history of anaphylaxis. “Two people had a bad reaction yesterday” said my lovely vaccinator. Somewhat incredibly, the vaccine prescription form had changed overnight as a result. It’s pretty awesome to feel a part of such a responsive team effort.
The vaccine didn’t hurt. Afterwards, I ate my chocolate and went back to my office once the 15 minutes were up.
I opened up BBC news to have a look at the headlines, and naturally looked at the top vaccine story. There was a graphic describing the vaccine schedule and underneath it said “full immunity 28 days.” Full immunity? Mentally I counted days. 7th January 2021. A tear came to my eyes too. Full immunity. Well done science. And thank you everybody.
Vicky Ewan is an academic consultant in Older Person’s Medicine at South Tees Hospitals NHS foundation Trust
Competing interests: none declared
Patient consent obtained