Brett Hetherington

Banner photos: Cornelia Kraft

Needled

 [This article was first published in Catalonia Today magazine, May 2021.]


[Photo: Oriol Duran, Barcelona.]

You could call me one of the lucky ones; one of the chosen few.

A week ago, I had my second dose of Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at Bellvitge Hospital in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat just outside Barcelona. 

This was the same medical centre that successfully operated on me to transplant a kidney 3 years ago, giving the reason for why I stood in line on a Friday evening with mainly 70 year old’s, some of whom undoubtedly have malfunctioning immune systems, as I do.

I’m in this category because since the campaign started in Catalonia on December 27 last year, at the time of writing1,572,518 residents had been given the first dose of the various vaccines. 

That represents just 20.36% of the total population. Of these, just over half a million people have also been administered the second dose (6.49% of the populace).  

Naturally, I don’t want to sound ungrateful. I don’t want to sound at all petty. I’m one of the biggest supporters of public health systems anywhere on this planet of marvels and mysteries. 

It just strikes me as disappointing that organisation from the EU, Spain and our government here wasn’t better. It disturbs me. 

You could say, in another meaning of the word, it needles me. 

There are even large numbers of school teachers (for example, my wife who’s in her mid-50s) who have not yet had their Covid protection maximised with a simple injection.

I accept that some causes for delays have been outside local authorities’ control. One case in point was the closure of the Eurotunnel in the English Channel just before Christmas. 

Reportedly, the main reason for the slow vaccine rollout speed in Catalonia was fridges (used to store doses) being trapped in Dover, one of England’s main ports.

Of course, that was 4 months ago now. And yes, I know there are plans to quicken the pace so that 70% of the population have been covered by the end of August. Plans don’t impress me. Well-coordinated action does.

There are other parts of the world that have done this task much more efficiently. Unsurprisingly maybe, places like Australia and New Zealand who’ve had relatively few cases of Covid have also already begun vaccination programs. 

Even that obscenely corrupt, malfunctioning corporation called the United Kingdom is looking pretty flash on this question.

While I’m all riled up, I’ll mention another related point. Now that it seems agreed that there’s going to be some kind of special travel “passport” for the pre-vaccinated elite like me in Europe, I have to ask about what’s going to happen to everyone else in the next few months leading into and through the summer?

What about the opportunity to travel across borders (is it even a human right?) Children, young people, many immigrant adults and all those not lucky enough to be immunised are clearly going to be discriminated against.

And here's another crucial error. I was arguing from the very start of scientific investigation into a vaccine that it should be centrally run by the World Health Organisation and an enhanced European Medicines Agency. 

The pandemic was, and still is, much too dangerous and long-lasting to be handled by local governments as prisoners of private interests who make medicine for profit.

Surely, one single contract should have been given to the most effective vaccine company and the patent for that vaccine should have been waved in the interests of global public health.

But I suppose that wouldn’t have been a financial shot in the arm for the pharma giants, would it?