The lady who has been given the job of injecting me with Pfizer’s finest, is a young ward nurse in a dark blue uniform, with a cheerful attitude and kind eyes. She tells me that since Torbay Hospital started doing vaccinations, she’s volunteered here on every day off she has. Nervously I straighten my mask, and ask where she works the rest of the week, worried that maybe it’s on a Covid ward. She reassures me that that would never be allowed and that she works at a ‘green’ hospital in Newton Abbot, so I’ve nothing to fear.
I’m amazed that someone would choose to work seven days a week to make sure that hospital staff and key workers like me all get our vaccinations as quickly as possible, but this young nurse seems proud and pleased to be able to help. She checks me against a list of criteria (am I allergic to anything? Does my blood clot normally? etc. etc.) and enters the results into a computer, using a keyboard with a special rubberised hygienic cover on it. Then she gives me an A4 page of possible side effects. At first, the long list feels a bit daunting, but when I see that actually the chances are less than 1 in 10 of getting even a headache, and that the risk of anything serious is so unlikely that its likelihood can’t even be calculated, I feel a lot more comfortable. I take the jab on my left arm gratefully - sharp scratch and then it’s over, and the nurse signs me off, letting me know that the vaccine won’t be effective straight away, but over time.
Next I’m to take my completed paperwork to the final desk for processing. Here, the lady who deals with my form tells me that I’ve accidentally written my date of birth down as 1895 (instead of 1985) making me 125 years old. She makes a joke that I’m looking young for my age. For some reason I decide to play along, by taking off my flat cap and hold it out towards her, saying “if you think I’ve aged well, you should look at this tweed! I bought it in 1928 you know and it’s got hardly any wear on it.”
She smiles and carries on with me, saying “they don’t make things like they used to.”
“No they don’t,” I continue, “times are a changin’.”
“You can say that again,” the lady said, “never seen anything like this Pandemic,”
“Neither I, in all my 125 years,” I enthuse, we laugh together then, and I make a final complaint that since I’m way over 80 I think I should have been vaccinated much sooner.
I’m told to wait another 15 minutes before leaving completely, just to check that I’m totally ok, which I am. As I sit in the waiting room, with a few others - all on chairs 2 meters apart, I look around at these other key workers - a couple of them have medical uniforms on. One is a hospital caretaker. It’s hard to believe that after a year of lockdowns, here we are - some of the first people to start on the path towards a covid free world. After my 15mins are up, I’m dismissed, and I walk out the door and step onto the grey concrete footpath feeling like Neil Armstrong stepping onto the moon.