It’s just as well that some of the mooted Covid vaccination sites are church halls, cathedrals and mosques, because exactly where we’ll be with the Master Plan by the time you read this, God Only Knows.
It is, as they say, a fluid situation – and that fluid has been spilled on NHSE -approved Covid pod floors, causing slip-up hazards for those trying to sort everything out. Even something as simple as the ‘15-minute observation’ guidance seems to be changing, er, every 15 minutes.
Which means many GPs are suffering the same adverse reactions to the programme as patients have to the vaccine: hyperventilation (through organisational anxiety), fainting (at the workload implications) and allergy (with an anaphylactic-type avoidance of the whole project).
At the same time, I suspect we’re also experiencing strange and uncomfortable flashbacks to last year. We’re used to groundhog winters, with each flu jab campaign reminding us of the previous one, except worse. But this is much more discomfiting than déjà flu.
Because this is déjà Covid. Whatever the prevailing infection stats when you read this – another GOK issue, since a few weeks is a long time in coronavirus epidemiology – the Covid vaccination programme itself puts us back in the same psychological mindset we experienced in early spring last year. This time, though, that tension, nausea and uncertainty you’re feeling is caused by a pandemic of jabs, not virus.
The parallels are uncanny. Once again, our role has transformed, overnight, as we now find ourselves heading up community Covid vaccination programmes.
We’re facing massive and hurried organisational change. We’re unclear on which parts of the day job we can formally or informally shelve. We’re uncertain about how this will affect staffing levels. We’re unclear about the impact on income, and whether there will be promises of protection. We’re drowning in lengthy and ever-changing guidance, diktats and webinars. And to ram home the point, the vaccination centres even come in ‘waves’.
There is one obvious difference between now and then, of course. And this struck me as I devised, typed and filed a new cribsheet to help our reception staff field the inevitable contacts from patients querying whether they should have the Covid vaccine. I say cribsheet, although, obviously, it was the word ‘Yes’.
As I filed it, I noticed another cribsheet sitting in our Covid file. One from last March, to help staff advise the flood of patients calling in a coronaviral panic with cough, fever or loss of taste/smell.
And that was when it really hit me: time marked by cribsheets. Nine months, incredibly, from UK outbreak to UK vaccine, from despair to hope. I’m not embarrassed to say it was a misty-eyed moment.
So that’s the difference. It may seem we’re back to square one, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. As we enter January, I guess all we can do is hope the new year is better than the old one. Or pray, if you’re that way inclined. At least you’ll be in the right place.
Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. Read more of Copperfield’s blogs at http://www.pulsetoday.co.uk/views/copperfield
This piece originally appeared in the January print issue of Pulse