Vaccine questions that Boris Johnson must answer as Freedom Day delayed – Jayne Dowle

WHEN the Prime Minister finished telling us on Monday night that his much-heralded ‘Freedom Day’ had been delayed, I waited for the three questions I really wanted answering. I’m still waiting.

Boris Johnson at Monday night's press briefing in Downing Street.
Boris Johnson at Monday night's press briefing in Downing Street.

Why are people refusing to be vaccinated? Why are people not isolating if they or a member of their household test positive for any variant of Covid-19? And are we still undergoing all these privations to ‘protect the NHS’?

If not, why are we doing it? That’s probably four questions, to be fair.

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Yes, I do know that the worrying Delta strain is 60 per cent more infectious than others and twice as likely to result in hospital admissions.

The Government still needs to win over vaccine sceptics, writes Jayne Dowle.

However, I also know that the Oxford/ Astra-Zeneca double dose I now have in my arm is 92 per cent effective against hospitalisation if I contract Delta. And the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine my 77-year-old parents have is 96 per cent effective against hospitalisation for the same.

Boris Johnson mentioned the NHS just twice in his 788-word oratory, and didn’t mention protecting it once. It all felt strangely distanced from reality. What are we supposed to be pulling together for now? And what about those who aren’t? Surely this is the biggest elephant in the room, and at the heart of the worrying spread of this Delta variant?

I didn’t hear anything about how countless vaccine refuseniks will be persuaded to put aside their rebellion or reservations. Unless they work for Pimlico Plumbers, Goldman Sachs and, now, care organisations, which are reported to be planning to make Covid vaccination a mandatory condition of employment.

Always the people-pleaser, even with Delta cases doubling every four and a half to eleven and a half days, Mr Johnson still avoids the crux of the matter – what is his government doing to reach the unreachable who are holding us all back?

Vaccines could become mandatory for care home staff, it has been reported.

Bizarrely, when he and his medical and scientific experts ended their delivery of doom, the Prime Minister invited the first question from Andrew, a member of the public in Worthing, who wanted to know if there is a plan to prioritise university students for vaccination.

What? After this crushing blow? Was this really the burning question?

With respect to students, universities, and all those who work in them, I would think that right now, with well-established virtual or ‘hybrid’ teaching and summer term ending, undergraduates would hardly be top of the priority list.

What a weird way to rejoinder a major speech which has put back easing restrictions on social distancing for a month, informed people that they must continue to work at home as far as possible, but with no extension to the furlough scheme, dashed the hopes of millions in the beleaguered hospitality and events businesses, and confused a lot of people hoping to hold a wedding or wake with more than 30 guests.

Is it just me, or have these curious ‘members of the public’ become something of a deflection tactic at these news conferences? A sop to democracy perhaps.

I remember last year – when the media was being slated left, right and centre for criticising Mr Johnson – suggesting that it might help to allow ordinary people to challenge him, his Ministers and advisors.

It worked. For a while. However, what it actually does now is deaden any debate before the big guns of the BBC and Sky News weigh in.

And this week, when most of us are heartily sick of witnessing those who refuse the jab and flout the sensible social distancing rules and restrictions put in place for the good of us all, I wanted to throw something at the television, the PM and the anonymous and anodyne ‘Andrew from Worthing’.

It didn’t help that on Sunday my husband and I had been for our second Oxford/Astra-Zeneca jab. We both felt rough by Monday evening, with sore arms, headaches and feverish chills. And the vaccinator’s assistant was dismissive when I asked her to correct the mis-spelling of my surname scribbled on my vital Covid vaccination card.

I’d gone out of my way to have an injection I never wanted, been patronised by a rude young woman and now felt like a donkey had kicked me. I was hardly in the mood to be fobbed off, again.

However, I thought my frustrations would fade along with the side-effects, but all week I’ve been looking for a muscular challenge on this questionable national address.

I’ve ferreted through the papers and looked online and apart from libertarian Tories predictably frothing with indignation – especially when the PM avoided debate in the House of Commons afterwards – could find nothing much.

I feel there is a complex and robust response required, but it is lacking. Labour is going along with what Boris says, inevitably. I’m not, to be honest. 
I’m going to keep asking my own questions.

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