Following the so-called ‘Freedom day’ in the UK on 19th July, member Kathy Feest shares her perspective on the changes in people’s behaviour as rules around social-distancing and wearing masks are relaxed. With many embracing the easing of restrictions, this blog reflects on the importance of personal choice when it comes to the reopening of society.
“Freedom” day has come and gone in England, but the virus couldn’t care less. My young window cleaner (he’s twenty four) washed our windows a few weeks ago. He hadn’t had his jab, and I did my best to convince him, with some facts, that perhaps he should. After “Freedom” Day, I thought I’d see if anything had got through. I texted him this morning and asked, “Have you had your vaccination yet?” “No I haven’t,” he replied, “How come?” I explained, “The rate of young people in hospital beds and in the ITU is rising. We like you. Get a jab and be safe!” He said, “I understand, but it’s my choice, thank you for caring though, I appreciate it.”
According to the BMJ, the figures for the week to 4th July show that among 18-24 year olds, vaccine uptake among men in London was 46%, women were slightly higher at 61%. In Bristol, vaccine uptake in this age group across our city is even lower.
I DO care about this! I care a great deal that there are so many, particularly young people, who are not getting their vaccinations. Yes it’s their choice. But here’s the rub: when the unvaccinated do get Covid, they pass it on. To each other. To their mates. And then their mates pass it on, and somewhere down the line even we double vaccinated oldies might get it. After all, Sajid Javid, the Health Minister had double vacs, and he was infected. Fortunately, his illness was a mild one. That’s thanks to Sarah Gilbert and Catherine Green (the two women behind the AstraZeneca vaccine, which many of us have had) or to the Pfizer folks and all the other wonderful scientists out there. That’s also thanks to the fantastic NHS workers and volunteers who jabbed so many of us! And it’s thanks to all of us – the uptake of vaccination in adults over the age of 60 in England is nearly 90 percent.
The choice of the unvaccinated however, continues to affect the freedom of us all. We’re all in this together!
In our double jabbed household, not that much has changed since “Freedom Day,” or as one of the papers headlined it, “FreeDUMB” day (Mirror, July 2021). We continue to be vigilant. Like most people, we began to carefully step into the world again when we unlocked back in May. I swim outside at my local gym and I even had my hair cut at the salon. Friends (who are all double jabbed, and as careful as we are) come to our house for meals, or we go to their place. The family and teenage grandchildren have stayed overnight – taking lateral flow tests before they arrived – just to be safe. We have been to an outdoor party where everyone was double jabbed, and maintained social distance. Most of our groceries are still delivered, but when we do venture into shops, we choose those where masks are still worn, and the plastic is still up as a helpful barrier between customers and shop floor workers at the checkout. We sit outside at cafes or make sure if venturing inside a restaurant that all precautions are still taken. Indoor events haven’t yet become part of our new normal, because we continue to avoid crowds; no concerts, no choir, no theatre, no public transport.
Freedom? Choice? Responsibility? These remain in our hands.
I’m still wearing my mask, and I’m staying away from those I know who are unvaccinated. My holidays and trips out are carefully planned. I explained to my hairdresser that when he got his jabs, I’d return again. My young window cleaner will not be doing the inside of my windows for a long time to come. The house cleaner who decided not to get jabbed isn’t working for us. The unvaccinated young girl in the fruit and veg shop who has stopped wearing a mask lost me as a customer.
With freedom comes responsibility and choice. I choose hands, face, space. And vaccinations!
Kathy writes her own blog, Feest Isolation Days – Reflections from self-isolation in Bristol, which she has updated every day since the start of the first lockdown in 2020.