Welcome back to Great Yorkshire Show, but not vaccine refusers – David Behrens

You never really know how others see you. I, despite all the evidence to the contrary, consider myself to be more or less the same person I was at 35. The medical profession begs to differ.

This was brought home to me on Monday when a largeish envelope bearing an NHS imprint came in the post. Inside was a colourful leaflet entitled “A guide for older adults”. The man and woman they had chosen for the cover photo indicated the target audience. They looked far older than me, though they might disagree.

The leaflet served as an invitation to book my Covid jabs at the vaccination centre on Elland Road in Leeds, next to the football ground. A shot in the arm in that vicinity will not be before time.

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I could have gone to Bradford instead, where a unit has been set up in a city centre pharmacy. I’d love to know where the officials think Bradford is, because the description said the vaccine centre was close to both an underground station and a tram stop. Does the civil service actually realise that West Yorkshire is the only major region in Europe to have neither?

An NHS Covid Vaccine Centre

But I needed no persuasion to book my vaccinations. Why would I? Why would anyone? Since the first polio inoculations in the 1950s, a needle in the arm every so often has been as routine as catching a winter cold. Countless families, including mine, were touched by the lifelong affliction of polio, and the idea of turning away protection from it or any other preventable disease remains as counterintuitive as running with scissors.

But some of those who are too young to be classified as “older adults” do not feel this way, and the Government has had to drop hints that it may launch a campaign to bring them into line. “Listen to Nan and get vaccinated”, runs the proposed slogan.

The reasoning here is that young people are more likely to take the word of someone in their family, or of a celebrity they respect, than that of politicians they inherently distrust. Under-30s are not alone in feeling that way about their elected officials, but their scepticism on this issue above all others is hard to fathom. Perhaps they’ve swallowed some ludicrous conspiracy theories on Facebook; maybe they think they’re imbued with the imaginary invincibility that comes with being young. Or possibly they’re just afraid it will hurt.

The Great Yorkshire Show

Yet if the vaccine came as a condiment at McDonald’s instead of in a syringe, they’d be queuing up for it.

In the absence of a McPfizer menu option, Matt Hancock has said the Government’s message to young people will be that getting a jab “helps to set us all free” – and you didn’t have to look far this week to see the truth in that.

No further in fact than the joyous announcement that after last year’s cancellation, the Great Yorkshire Show will return for its customary three days in July. This was one of the surest signs yet that the county will resume business more or less as usual this summer, for on a warm day there is no better place to be than the showground at Harrogate. It represents not only the best of Yorkshire but of England, and its reopening will send a signal that national life is no longer on hold.

But its organisers will have to rely on common sense among the people attending. They will not want significant numbers of vaccine refusers turning up and starting to mingle.

It is events like this that will mark the beginning of the New Normal, and we can’t expect them to proceed as if nothing had happened. The Great Yorkshire Show is staged mostly outdoors but even so, when the weather is fine, the crowds are so dense that you’re shoulder-to-cheek with three other people. And inside the Food Hall, where the region’s artisan producers display their wares, there is barely the width of a cheese knife between one punter and the next.

How the show will deal with that kind of crush remains to be seen. By the time it begins, the vaccination roll-out will be in its final stages, and those under-30 will have had to fall in with the rest of us, or disappear into those dark corners where their conspiracy theories breed. The show’s organisers are thrashing out the rules as we speak, but they acknowledge that some sort of social distancing will still be in place.

And that’s not entirely a bad thing. Because, frankly, the more space there is between the refusers and my fellow older adults at Elland Road this weekend, the better.

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