On Tuesday, I got short notice for a long-awaited appointment: my second COVID vaccine jab would be administered on Wednesday at 1pm (less than 24 hours away).
I couldn’t remember what we were told ‘Not to do’ before the first jab, so I called a close friend who told me ‘Eat, but don’t drink…’
And she quickly added: ‘And while you’re there, ask them whether you can get COVID thru sex…’
I curdled inside and simply told her: ‘I don’t want to know…’
I drank only water that evening – more than usual – to flush-out any undesirable fluids; and since I also had a prior appointment that same day with my doctor for a long-overdue prostate test, I spent as much time in the toilet (as if that made any difference to sooth my eternal discomfort from this age-old intrusive anatomic fingering the doctors insist is still the most reliable yardstick…)
Wednesday morning (at around three-o-clock) I browsed my news channels on my phone while still on my back and pillow, trying to decide if to ‘wake-up’ and go to my bedroom desk to start my working day (as per usual), or whether to let the body take ‘a good rest…’
Then and there I got the first blow from my usually helpful Smart phone: A story out of Canada indicating most provinces were either banning the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, or rolling out its final doses — because of an increase in the controversial ‘blood clots’ it was also banned or shelved in many other countries.
The explanations were many and varied, the language as palatable as bad news can be fed, but, in the end, it amounted to the Trudeau administration deciding that although the risk of blood-clotting was still very, very, low they however preferred to follow the global flow and err on the side of caution.
I’ve been following the COVID arms race and the related diplomatic and trade wars over it for more than the past year and I am aware that the risks of blood clots from the jab are like one (or maybe two) in a million; and that many countries continue to harbour doubts about its efficacy against the new virus complications being created by the increasingly metamorphosing and mutating variants across the world, on every continent.
I was also aware that South Africa had rejected a shipment of Oxford-AstraZeneca (in favor of Johnson & Johnson) earlier this year for the same reason, which shipment was eventually sent to The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which also had to return it because the word got out and suspicions spread with added rumors, causing people to stay away from vaccination centers.
I was also aware that two weeks before, the Biden administration, which had also shelved Oxford-AstraZeneca for the same reasons, had also decided to ship all of the 60 million vaccines it had purchased back to India — in the name of emergency assistance — while entering a new agreement with Pfizer-Moderna.
The European Union (EU) had also taken action against oxford-AstraZeneca, not because of its inefficacy, but for failing to honor contractual distribution agreements with some member-states.
It’s been clear to me that the virus and its new variants are spreading faster than the manufacturers can produce updated vaccines and the arms race continues even though the manufacturers have failed to live-up to their promises to deliver enough vaccines around the world to inoculate the global population.
The manufacturers, who’ve reaped the largest-ever benefits in their respective histories from COVID-19, are still naturally unwilling to release on their copyrights and share the vaccine formulae with developing countries that can afford and have the scientific and technical capacity — like India (where the most of the world’s vaccines are being produced by Oxford-AstraZeneca at its Serum Institute) and in South Africa, where the pharmaceutical industry is no less capable than any in Europe or North America.
I also knew that Saint Lucians and Caribbean people – like everywhere else – have also been following the news about vaccines and many are understandably also hesitant about which to trust, as all have been subjected to rival propaganda about their effectiveness.
America is also doubtfully but hopefully racing to jab more people to bring it even close to the 70% Herd Immunity levels, to such an extent that American scientists are already urging Americans to start learning to ‘Live with and alongside COVID-19 for some time…’ as there are serious doubts the required immunity levels will be reached, what with the great number who also simply refuse to be vaccinated and those who had their first AstraZeneca shot, but opted not to take the second (in light of the number of countries that shelved, banned or refused to accept it.)
Saint Lucians too had reached an apparent saturation rate with over 24,000 people vaccinated in just a few weeks, but the numbers having fallen drastically since while the number of new infections and deaths have started growing again after a brief respite.
And in the time between my first prick and the second one due Wednesday afternoon, COVID-19 had become the top election issue it was always destined to be here, the National COVID Emergency extended by five months after the first three, adding at least 150 unbroken days to the 90 that started in February and ended this week — a total of 240 days of Curfew, Social Distancing and tough policing of prevention and protection protocols.
However, none of the above diminished my zeal to get my second prick, aware from Day One that while vaccines don’t prevent you from getting COVID, it offers a certain degree of protection, never mind the understandable concerns.
With that, when I entered the waiting room at DBS, I pricked some life into the seemingly sad waiters by asking them to ‘Stop behaving like you in a line at the cemetery to choose your hole…’ – and asking a masked young lady who looked me in the eye whether she thought she could get the virus ‘from sex…’
There was some brief laughter, but no replies.
When my turn came, it was a male nurse to administer my jab, I again went into comical overdrive, telling him ‘I always prefer to be pricked by a nurse than a man…’ — to which the obviously brain-tired guy responded, ‘What’s the difference?’
He didn’t get it, but the she-nurse did; and when I told him “I felt the prick this time, but not the first jab’, she simply laughed and told me to ‘Laminate your certificate, Mr Bousquet…’
So here I am: I’ve had my second jab and I feel no different, my body not even having had to tell me it was sending signals to different parts to open-up for the second prick.
I was offered the opportunity to take my jab on camera to be shown on my TV show Sunday, but I respectfully declined, having decided of late — despite the understandable confusion sown by the competing manufacturers and its effect in generating vaccine hesitancy — to also respect other people’s decisions, once made-up – including my two sons at home, who convinced me they had to ‘Stay safe…’
The elder one put a protective hand around his brother’s neck and told me: ‘Just in case anything happens, for us to be there to take care of our Dad.’
I must admit: I was taken!