AstraZenica – Just A Little Prick (Of A Needle)

“Excuse me, young man,” I asked the 23-year-old volunteer who got ready to steady his shaking hands, before opening an AstraZenica vial and insert a rather long-looking needle into my left arm. “You do know it’s my arm you’re jabbing?”

And with what, I could have added? “Don’t worry,” he said. “Just a little prick.”

You’re telling me, I thought.

I didn’t say any of that (nor did he), for the simple reason that I cancelled the appointment. Although I felt uncomfortable about receiving a potential killer in my non-existent biceps, I had no choice – until a day before the appointment.

I’m just over 60 – 62 to be precise (and edging towards 63) – less than a thousand days over the threshold that would have classified that transparent liquid I was about to receive this week, into a concoction inviting the formation of a fatal blood clot in the deepest part of my soul. A thousand days – that’s all it takes.

It wouldn’t have happened, of course. I mean, I’ve never won the lottery, been run over by a car or hit by a train. So why on earth should I be the one person in 100,000 to suffer from, and maybe die of, a blood clot? The “one” I’m referring to is the “other” and not me.

I’ve tried to be scientific about all this – a science strengthened by a grounding in immunology and an unshakable utopian philosophy. A Benthamian view of the world where personal sacrifice and risk-taking for the greater good is a noble act that will go down as a plus-point at the gates of paradise. I’m referring to the English jurist and philosopher Jeremy Bentham, champion of the best possible outcome for the greatest number of people. “It is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong,” he wrote. How right you were, Sir. How right.

No sooner had I finished thinking about the above – let alone writing it –  I realised that my fledgling ideas were being usurped by people in high places, without me having to set fingers to computer keyboard. Dutch health minister Hugo de Jong – who resigned as minister, won the following general election, and is now acting as a “resigning minister,” before becoming the real deal again (catch my drift?) – had acted on this post before I even wrote it.

Having promised that no one in this flat little country could choose which prick did him or her a favour (I’m referring to a prick of the needle, of course), good-old-Hugo went back on his words and allowed people like me, who refused the AstraZenica vaccine, to choose another little prick.

Daniëlle Timmermans, a whizkid in public health communication, told me and others like me, on national television, that we didn’t understand the true nature of the risks of the vaccine and couldn’t see that these risks far outweighed the benefits of vaccination. She even suggested that immigrants were more likely to refuse the vaccine that true Dutch people – immigrants like me. Aren’t we all silly foreign blood clots.

Timmermans rightly said that all medicines have associated risks and side-effects. I totally agree, but she misses the point. The point being, that I find it hard to understand why only 60-to-65-year-olds get this vaccine, in the first place. Are we that different to people under 60 and over 65? I haven’t, as yet, received an answer to that question and have a strange feeling that I never will.

Waste-not-want-not seems to be the Dutch government’s logic – until yesterday. Hugo reasoned that since under-60’s and over-65’s can’t use AstraZenica, let the vaccine take a whack at the poor blighters in-between. Either that or send as much AstraZenica to Suriname. They won’t care – they’re dying anyway.

There’s no doubt that AstraZenica is the hot Covid potato. The only good thing about the vaccine is the speed at which it was developed. it’s just a pity that no one knows how to use it. AstraZenica has suffered the effects of cold-blooded politics. The EU threatened to stop the Brits getting a sniff of the stuff, before deciding that the vaccine was a dangerous copy of the original, and didn’t work anyway.

In view of the latest scientific studies, the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine has been proven. My turn will come, but I’ve got time. If that’s the vaccine that’s offered to me, I will take it, of course.  – Emmanuel Macron  

The real problem on AstraZeneca is that it doesn’t work the way we were expecting it to. We’re waiting for the EMA [European Medicines Agency] results, but today everything points to thinking it is quasi-ineffective on people older than 65, some say those 60 years or older. – Emmanuel Macron

The Dutch authorities seem to agree with Macron and targeted people aged 60-65 because the benefits of being given a risky vaccine outweighed the risks of being given a risky vaccine.

So there you have it. I was being offered a vaccine that may not even work, probably has side-effects, and is only being used on people my age.

I’m exaggerating of course, bordering on the cynical. Having now received a shot of Pfizer, I don’t regret my choice. Absolutely no side-effects, not even the sharp short pain of an injection. And I’m proud to have done my bit for King and country (it’s Holland, remember). I stand by my decision which may not have been very scientific, but was entirely logical – I never got an answer to the question of why AstraZenica was only given to people like me.