Please Stand By

While this weekend was meant to be the original launch date for Sky Blue City Walks, the offer of getting an early second Covid jab today Saturday was not really something that could be turned down. I’ll be much happier about starting up after having had a second vaccination not just for me, but for everyone, even though 99% of the route of the Sky Blue City Walk takes place outside, it’s just something that just makes feel better about the whole thing.

During the pandemic I’ve been doing some volunteering for RVS, a while that has included some time vaccination stewarding, most of it was ringing people up to see if they need any shopping, which most of the time they didn’t and those phone calls have just turned into long chats with random people, who for whatever reason weren’t able to leave their house.

So in many cases the volunteering consists of staying on the phone and talking for as long as the person at the other end wanted. When I first realised I might be the only person they would speak to for days, it felt like a far more worthwhile exercise than it had originally seemed.

The thing I wanted to pass on from that is that a fair amount of those people were saying that they wouldn’t be going out, not not until they were vaccinated, but not until they felt the population was vaccinated enough for this nightmare to be over, or as over as it will ever be.

The thing that worries me, and is being born out right now in Lancashire when we thought we were on the verge of lockdown ending, is that some people and it’s fair to say some areas simply aren’t taking up the vaccine. While pretty much everyone turns up for their pre-booked vaccination appointments, a couple of weeks ago I did a stewarding shift at a drop-in session in Willenhall. At that point, no-one under 40 who was outside the high-risk groups had been asked to get a jab, and with there having been over a thousand letters going out from the surgery I expected it to be really busy. The reality was that a couple of hours in there were so few people and I was so bored, that I posted out to social media the fact there was a drop-in session that anyone could come to, to try and drum up more business.

By the end of the day just 96 people had come, and that was after I had got the last ones by standing on the street opposite a parade of shops and reliving how I used to sell GMK at Highfield Road, shouting “Come and get your coronavirus vaccine, just three left….”

The practice manager was actually very happy with the numbers. The whole reason for the extra drop in session at the surgery because they’d been having a really low take up of people getting vaccinations in their catchment. As I went back to the Heron Foods car park, I notice the graffiti on the pharmacy, which right back at the start of vaccination had been one of the first places in the country to administer jabs. Whilst the world had watched as the very first inoculation was given at Walsgrave, in Willenhall someone had been painting an arrow and labelling it “Sheep”.

Right now, as the Indian variation spreads in parts of Bolton and elsewhere, we are starting to see what happens where there are pockets of people who decided that vaccinations weren’t for them.

The hope now for Coventry is that people from all over the country will be visiting for City of Culture and mixing, which just makes it even more important that people keep on getting vaccinated. The thing everyone should have realised by now is that Covid 19 isn’t just going to go away, not for a few years at least. Until the whole world has got a handle on this pandemic, there will always be new variants and a need for booster vaccinations for years. The more people there are who think this isn’t for them, the longer the clinically vulnerable will see a phone call from a volunteer as the highlight of their week.

Published by Sky Blue City Walks

Guided Walks of Coventry, the UK Capital of Culture 2021

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