diamond geezer

 Tuesday, November 30, 2021

I have just been boostered.
That was good timing.

I was 1st-jabbed in March (along with most of the nation's 50-somethings) and 2nd-jabbed at the end of May. My opportunity for a 3rd jab came six months later, or rather 182 days later because these turn out to not be the same thing. By the calendar my six months was up on Sunday but by the day count it was Friday, there having been four 31-day months since... but none of this matters because I went and booked for Monday instead.

I would have gone back to the ExCel exhibition centre because I had a good experience there, but they stopped vaccinating in June and have since returned to hosting niche business conferences. Instead I searched through the other opportunities available locally, of which it turned out there were several because I live in London. Most were pharmacies, including one almost on my doorstep, but I didn't fancy whipping off my top layers in a shop so looked elsewhere.

I plumped for the vaccination centre at the Westfield shopping centre because it was big and because I knew where it was, having walked past umpteen times since it opened in January. This was just as well because the map link provided on the booking website took me to a building a quarter of a mile away beside the bus station, because this is the danger of automatically prioritising postcodes over actual location.

It's fine, directional signs to the vaccination centre have been placed throughout the outer parts of the mall, although they do take you past a 2nd vaccination centre which looks open but closed in September. The remaining jabbery is inside the former IKEA store, not far from John Lewis, which is where my booster adventure began.

I knew what to expect because this vaccination hub has its own website, westfield-covid-vaccination-centre.nhs.uk, which includes a section titled What will happen when I attend? I won't cut and paste all of the bullet points, only those which turned out to be incorrect, unhelpful or untrue.
If you can, please bring your NHS number.
I duly brought my NHS number, having been caught out at previous appointments by not knowing what it was. But this time nobody asked for it so making a special effort beforehand proved entirely unnecessary.
When you arrive, you will be met by our front of house staff. They will ensure that you are wearing a face covering and will provide you with a mask if you are not.
I put my mask on before before joining the very short queue. The man on the front door asked me to take it off and handed me another mask to put on instead. I wasn't overly impressed by this, given that the website (and my NHS confirmation email) had specifically asked me to bring a face covering. He explained it was to ensure a level playing field because some of the masks people bring are woefully unfunctional. I said that was fair enough but I now had to stand in front of him unmasked for a few seconds while I changed over, and perhaps they could just have got their words right in the first place. I didn't say the last part out loud.
We will ask you to sanitise your hands in the foot-controlled dispenser by the entrance.
It wasn't foot-controlled. Perhaps someone's worked out it's perfectly safe to touch a dispenser if you're about to sanitise your hands immediately afterwards.
We will also take your temperature.
According to the thermal gizmo my body temperature was only 35°C, I suspect because it had been near-freezing outside on my walk to the centre. Nobody assumed I had hypothermia, they just waved me in, but I bet anyone with a fever would have registered comfortably below the threshold and been admitted anyway.
We will then take you to one of our vaccination pods.
There were a couple more stages before I got that far, including the checking of my booking reference and the answering of important questions (no, no, no, no, no, no). The man in front of me didn't speak great English so it took the administrator some time to work out he was in for his first jab, but she was very reassuring all the same. It's never too late, especially when governments are now dangling extra carrots and extra sticks.

My booster jab went very smoothly, thanks, not least because I'd remembered to wear a short-sleeved shirt under my winter woollies. What intrigued me is that there were three other people in my pod, whereas for my first jab there'd been two and for my second just one. I now suspect that Abigail was sitting there purely to observe and that the nurse who needled me was new to this, but he did very well and missed all the bits that might have hurt.
You will be given a leaflet about the vaccination you have just had.
No, they gave me the leaflet before I had the vaccination, two rooms earlier. I'd been a bit confused at the time because the text kept calling the vaccine Comirnaty, a name I'd never heard before, with the Pfizer brand name appearing only at the foot of the last page. That makes me one of the millions whose vaccination sequence has been AZ-AZ-Pf, rather than Pf-Pf-Mo, Ja-Ja-Mo or whatever. Let's hope that's one of the good ones.
You are then free to go.
No such luck. They'd let me go straight away after my previous two jabs because I was walking home, not driving, but this time I had to wait. It's a Pfizer thing. You'd think the website would know this, given that AstraZeneca is only available at Westfield on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but instead the final instruction was annoyingly incorrect.

I'd been given a time I could leave, fifteen minutes after stabbing, and got to wait in the holding area on a freshly sanitised chair. Among the notices on the wall was one warning 'Please use headphones while using your phone' and another inviting me to follow the Stratford Vaccination Centre on Instagram. I did neither. Two digital clocks had been set up at the front of the room, one to either side, to save people relying on their own timepieces. Alas nobody had thought to synchronise them so one always reached departure time 25 seconds before the other.

And then I was back out into Christmas Shopping World, fully boostered, and ready to continue with my day. Thus far I've suffered no adverse reaction, be that a stiff arm or full-on fever, which is exactly the same as didn't happen on the previous two occasions. I feel very fortunate.

Having waited patiently for six months to get my booster it seems everyone else is suddenly going to be offered it after three, so it looks like I got in just before the rush. The omicron variant is triggering a whole raft of reassessments and reimpositions, of which today's reintroduction of laws on face coverings is likely only the first.

At least I now feel best prepared for whatever lies ahead, whatever that may be and however this winter turns out. I wonder when they're going to urge us to have a fourth.

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