COMMENT: Let’s Get Real In Vaccine Talk

This week, Gavin argues that people deserve to be given more information about the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, and that it’s in everyone interests that this happens.

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Did you ever get the day of the week wrong, in your head?

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It’s one of many nightmares of radio hosts that you’ll welcome someone to “Wednesday’s programme” a day late or a day early, and look like an eejit to thousands of people in the process (I’ve been glad, on occasion, that there’s a screen in our studio that displays the day of the week to save my blushes). But consider those times where you might have, just for a moment made that mistake. If it turns out that Friday evening, or whenever quitting time is, is 24-hours sooner than you’d thought you are of course, delighted. The other way around… that can be a bitter pill to swallow.

That’s all a long way of saying that expectations matter. It’s an obvious point, but one that I hope the government is mindful of as it embarks upon one of the most important projects in the history of the State.

It is essential that the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine is successful. Any unnecessary delays will cost us a further fortune, will deprive people of their liberties and, most importantly, could see more people fall ill or die. The UK has appointed a Minister with responsibility for the vaccine for this reason – they, and we, have to get it right.

I see no reason why that won’t be the case in Ireland. We’re around ten days from the first vaccines being administered, and all going to plan next year will be a lot easier than 2020. Slowly, life will return to normal but WHEN, exactly, is the question.

I’ve seen different estimates – St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, summer. But a glance abroad suggests it could be even longer. Germany, a nation famed for its efficiency, is predicting that only 60% of its population will be vaccinated by next autumn. Bear in mind that some experts suggest a vaccination rate of 80% is needed to achieve ‘herd immunity’ and it paints a different picture as to the type of year that could be in store.

I appreciate that there is going to be uncertainty, to an extent, when there are many variables at play but I do think we deserve more information at clarity. I, and you, want to know when life will return to something close to normal. How will we decide to ease off on restrictions? What measures will be used to determine when we go to Level 2, Level 1 and Level 0. When will we be able to hug our loved ones again? Give us a goal to work towards.

This process will take take time. I think most people would accepting of that fact, but we’d be much more inclined to accept that if we were prepared for that fact. The additional 24-hours to wait for the weekend is enough of a killer, without a situation which could see us having to wait months longer than we’d hoped for.

The point on expectations has also been borne out by the expected shortening of the period of time in which we can enjoy less stringent COVID restrictions. No final decisions have been made, at this point, but it’s clear that we will not be able to celebrate New Years’ Eve in the way that many will have planned. I’m not going to cast judgement on whether this is the right move or not – I’m not qualified to do so – but when you hear anger on the airwaves from the sectors most impacted, that will stem from their initial expectations that they would have been able to trade into the New Year.

There is a difference though, I feel. This isn’t a scientific survey, by any means, but while previous lockdowns have been met with questioning, frustration and sometimes anger on our text lines, we haven’t seen that same tone this week. Maybe this reflects how many think it’s futile to rail against the public health advice, as opposed to a greater acceptance, but it is an interesting point. The figures for Clare are currently encouraging too, so hopefully all of that can continue to help us get out of this sorry time as soon as possible.