We must trust scientists to find an answer to this deadly virus: Christa Ackroyd

How are you feeling this week? I have to be honest and say it wasn’t the best for me. The lockdown haircut and dog grooming are all looking ok... from a distance.

The first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine for Covid-19, are already started. (Credit: AP).

The home baking repertoire is growing as rapidly as my waistline. My technological achievements are improving by the day having zoomed, teamed and facebooked live which means in the last seven days I have quizzed, sung, exercised and met up with friends and family whom I am missing more and more.

But I have to admit the news which wobbled me, and as I have said before we are allowed a wobble, was the prediction by the experts that some kind of social distancing might very well have to be in place until the end of the year, and that a vaccination programme might not be available until next year.

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My first thought was what on earth will we do until then? Everything inside and out has already been painted, oiled, waxed and titivated to perfection. Only the back bedroom and the kitchen cupboards to do now. But I was saving that for a rainy day, not a New Year’s resolution.

But then I stopped. If doctors and nurses are at the forefront of the battle for our day to day survival, it is the scientists who are at the forefront of the battle for our future.

Quietly, methodically and without fuss or drama they are, as I write, beginning clinical trials of a vaccine which will change our whole perspective on this horrific, deadly virus. And I say ‘will’, because at the start of World Immunisation Week they have done it before, and they will do it again.

When I was a child I whispered questions about why my godfather, Uncle Harold, walked with sticks or spent hours in his wheelchair. It was, they whispered back, because as a child he had contracted polio.

And so, like every other child in the Sixties I queued up for my pink-stained sugar cube containing a few drops of Sabin’s live vaccine. I was safe. According to my baby book, I had already had my injections for diphtheria, whooping cough, smallpox and a tetanus jab after a childhood accident that involved falling into my father’s prized rose bushes that were in the process of being nurtured by manure from the milkman’s horse. Apparently a lethal combination.

Those were the days before the MMR jab which I am pleased to say has this week finally been cleared of any blame for autism. I remember the fear of having my own children immunised while the debate raged, though I knew it was the right thing to do.

I had never heard the phrase ‘herd immunity’ until now, although I remember as a child being positively encouraged to play with children who had mumps, chicken pox and measles which I caught in that order. However, I was kept inside when I contracted German measles to keep pregnant women safe.

At secondary school we queued up again for the big one, the BCG, which was administered by an implement that left many of us with a scar on our arm but safe from tuberculosis, a death sentence for so many in Victorian times.

Incidentally, the total number of deaths from all diseases in 1948 was only slightly lower than the figure recorded in 2016, despite the fact that the population had almost doubled. That’s how far we’ve come.

All the above illnesses were killers. They swept through communities leaving fear and pain, like now. Every city had an isolation or fever hospital and every family dreaded their loved ones being sent there. Until scientists stepped in and they were closed because there was no longer a need for their existence.

Talking to a friend about our long ago vaccination programme we also reminisced about the simple remedies of childhood illnesses replicated in every 1960s bathroom cabinet. Alongside the bottle of Old Spice and the Mum roll on, were the oddest concoctions. Or so they seem now.

Who remembers Golden Eye ointment, the bottles of TCP and Kaolin and Morphine Mixture, not to mention Milk of Magnesia and Calamine lotion to dab on the aforementioned chicken pox, and with it dried pink itchiness? Or tube of Savlon, or a tin of Germolene and a bottle of aspirin with its cotton wool stopper and there was your medicine cabinet.

We also had a strip of fabric plasters which I was allergic to, a crepe bandage, a sling, safety pin and a roll of cotton wool that doubled up as a face protector for home perms. I am sure yours contained something similar.

Since then, scientists have discovered statins for heart conditions, vaccines for meningitis and much more. Aids patients can live a long and healthy life because of medication.

My mum was saved by the earliest form of chemotherapy. My husband’s aorta is held together by metal and gortex stents and his blood pressure is regulated by ever improving blood pressure tablets. As I say, they have done it before and they will do it again.

At the start of World Immunisation Week I remain confident because the world’s leading scientists say the signs are good. And that’s good enough for me. But they want to be sure. They need to be sure.

And so I thank them and also applaud the bravery of the 500 human guinea pigs who this week started the Covid-19 vaccine testing at the Jenner Institute in Oxford. We are in their hands.

Until then we will just have to wait. So stay safe. Stay indoors and remember, there is always the back bedroom that needs bottoming.

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James Mitchinson

Editor