We’re publishing a guest post by travel writer Annabel Fenwick Elliott about the absurdity of insisting people have the booster as a condition of being able to travel, something Sajid Javid has said is on the cards. She reluctantly got vaccinated in order to carry on doing her job, but wasn’t prepared to get a booster every six months!
Just when I thought we were finally done with all the audacity, a fresh plate of it is served. Less than a year after the vaccine drive launched, being double-jabbed isn’t good enough anymore. Syringes at the ready, Health Secretary Sajid Javid is already making thinly-veiled threats about not “enjoying Christmas” again, unless “we all come together and play our part” in the booster regime.
On top of that, mere months after the half-hearted revival of travel, the validity of our Covid passes are under threat. Austria and Switzerland have joined Israel in limiting entry for those who aren’t willing to get another dose, and the UK’s official guidance was updated earlier this month to say the Government “is reviewing the implications and requirements of boosters for international travel certification” and “looking at whether and how booster vaccinations could be included in the NHS Covid Pass for travel”.
That sounds an awful lot to me like an all-but mandatory third helping of a substance that doesn’t prevent me from catching a virus, which isn’t even a danger to me, and won’t prevent me from spreading it to others. Ah well, you might say; in for a penny, in for a pound. What’s one more concession?
But equally, where does one draw the line, between doing silly things in order to be a more agreeable human, and all-out refusing to comply on principle? I’ve been asking myself this question since April 2020, back when lockdown was still something of a novelty, before the pile-up of non-virus-related casualties – lost jobs, ruined livelihoods, compromised educations; missed cancer diagnoses, suicides, worsening poverty in the developing world – had far eclipsed the number of Covid deaths.
By the time loo-roll-gate wasn’t funny anymore, and furlough was no longer looking like just a brief holiday from functional society, we’d established that this coronavirus was nasty, yes, but dangerous to only a small section of people. This should have been our cue to throw billions of pounds at protecting that vulnerable percentage; increasing hospital capacity (long overdue anyway), safe-guarding care homes and supporting those who needed to shield.
Instead, we wasted it, on a scale previously inconceivable, policing our entire population on where they could travel, when they could exercise and who they could hug. That line, between whimsical irrationality and perilous lunacy, became increasingly hard to distinguish. I complied with rules I never imagined I would, for longer than I ever thought I could.
Then, after almost a year of living like North Koreans, came the vaccines – our only ticket out of this. The final sacrifice we’d have to make to ‘keep everyone safe’ and go back to normal again. And so easy, just a prick of the skin! In any other circumstance, I would have gladly rolled up my sleeve. I’ve always marvelled at the invention of inoculations. I am unwaveringly pro-science and anti-hysteria. But by this stage I was in revolt.
After 20 months of ludicrous tap dancing – wearing a muzzle to walk from a door to a table, being banned post-travel from walking my dog in the countryside, needing to order a pie in order to have a pint – I didn’t trust a single diktat the Government had issued, even the few that made sense. I was all out of willingness to do silly things for the greater good, and for better or worse, that now included taking a needle to the arm.
The elderly and infirm – indeed, everyone who wanted one – had got theirs, and were thus all-but entirely protected from severe disease and death. I, with my 0.0218 % risk of being hospitalised with Covid, according to the Government’s own QCovid risk calculator tool, would rather take my chances, thanks. No offence to the jabs themselves, and the admirable speed at which they were rolled out; but if Matt Hancock had ordered me to start taking two Ibuprofen tablets a day for not having a headache I would refuse on the same principle.
But eventually I caved, not to ‘protect others’ (because it bears repeating, all those who want to be protected are protected), but because my job as a travel writer would otherwise have been impossible and because I genuinely thought it would be the last of these long drawn-out box-ticking exercises. Also, so that I’d no longer need to have my nostrils so routinely violated by cotton swabs.
I was wrong on all fronts, of course. Most countries outside Europe still require a PCR test upon entry whether you’re vaccinated or not (which isn’t that mad considering the jabs don’t stop you spreading the virus), and if plans go ahead for our Covid passes to be repeatedly rendered obsolete (we’ll probably need boosters every six months, seems to be the general scientific consensus) then that’s it – there is no line, and there is no end.
Perhaps the most glaring fault in this potty plot to extinguish a disease that is already endemic also manifests itself as our leaders’ most audacious act of hypocrisy. Even if we could reach global herd immunity it would be impossible to achieve without inoculating almost everyone on the planet. Yet here we are in the West, dishing out third doses and declaring all that oppose them to be selfish, when vast swathes of the population in Africa haven’t even had their first.
My father, a lawyer based in Australia with a background in science and engineering, is about the most rational person I know, and the last person I’d expect to be an anti-vaxxer. But for the same reasons as many others (a total lack of trust in the way this pandemic has been handled) he’s taken an even firmer stance than I have, in refusing it altogether. It means he can’t step foot on a plane again. (Qantas, the nation’s flag carrier, has made it compulsory for all passengers to be double-jabbed.)
It is his position that if he holds out long enough, perhaps when we’re on our seventh round of boosters, the Government will give up on the mass-scale behavioural tricks and the Covid jab will be relegated to the status of the flu shot: a good idea for those who need it, there for anyone who wants it, but no longer the condition of leading a normal life. The way it should have been from the start, perhaps. I only hope he’s right.