By Donu Kogbara
I’VE just returned from a two-month sojourn in the UK; and it was a pretty grim experience. Two days after I arrived, hoping to enjoy a relaxed and jolly Christmas break with a whole bunch of beloved friends and relatives I hadn’t seen for ages, the British government decided to force the country into lockdown mode, in a desperate bid to control the alarming spread of the dreaded COVID-19 virus.
I have already grumbled, on this page, about the depressing realities I had to contend with during the lockdown, but I will provide a quick recap for Vanguard readers who are new to this column. We weren’t allowed to visit anyone or receive visitors or entertain or invite anyone to stay for the weekend or whatever. We could only hang out with members of our households.
I was lucky because my son is based in my London residence, so I had company. But people who live alone had to spend the entire Yuletide holiday season alone.
Meanwhile, there was no question of sitting down in a buzzing bar or stylish restaurant to have a nice drink or meal; and the only shops that were allowed to open were those selling essentials like food and medication. And because of social distancing rules, there were long queues outside major supermarkets. And the weather was awful.
A tiny handful of concessions, aimed at enabling frustrated UK residents to maintain their sanity, were offered: For example, though restaurants weren’t permitted to welcome customers, they could accept telephone/online orders and deliver takeaways.
It was also okay to go for daily walks (healthy exercise was grudgingly encouraged) with one person you didn’t live with (if you were willing to tolerate icy wintry winds, constant rain and nasty slippery snow!)
But despite the UK feeling like a boring funeral parlour in recent weeks, I am so glad I happened to be there last month because there is so much more to life than the enjoyment, comfort and instant gratification we can gain from freedom of movement; and I accidentally wound up being in the right place at the right time within the context of access to the COVID-19 vaccine.
The global COVID-19 vaccination programme commenced on December 8, 2020 when Margaret Keenan, a 90 year-old British grandmother, became the first person in the world to be given the Pfizer jab.
Mrs. Keenan, who was due to turn 91 shortly afterwards, described the injection as “the best early birthday present.” I totally empathised with her because ever since scientists in different countries announced that they had developed vaccines, I had yearned to benefit from the protection that vaccines offer.
But I wasn’t expecting to join Mrs. Keenan on the privileged protected list until later on this year because I wasn’t on the UK government’s priority list.
The vaccine is, quite rightly, not for sale in the UK…which means that no matter how rich you are, you have to wait until the government decides that it is your turn to be vaccinated free of charge. Because I grew up in the UK and have worked and paid taxes out there, I am entitled to use the British National Health Service.
But when I arrived in London in mid-December, people who are older than me and/or suffering from serious life-threatening ailments were at the front of the multi-million queue; and I was told that my age group would not be vaccinated until April/May or later.
But I got a phone call at the end of January, inviting me to take the vaccine early; and I jumped at this unexpected opportunity. And I’ve had no side effects or bad reactions; and I feel so happy and grateful about the fact that I’ve been given a weapon with which to fight the most pernicious virus the world has seen in the modern era.
The anti-vaccine brigade
HAVING said this, the reason I was offered an early vaccine appointment is disturbing: Long story short, there are a lot of Africans and West Indians in the UK; and most of them are refusing to be vaccinated, so the queue is moving more quickly than the UK authorities anticipated.
It worries me that so many black folks in the UK, in the US, in Africa, in Nigeria, etc, are so suspicious of the vaccine. There is a widespread fear that white folks are going to use it to harm us. But I deeply doubt that this is the case.
I don’t think that I am being naïve when I say that I don’t see why the mentally balanced white majority (as opposed to Donald Trump’s deranged racist fans) would want to sterilise or mass murder us at this point in time. What would they gain if Nigerians are wiped out or zombified or prevented from producing a future workforce?
I hope that all Vanguard readers will shine their eyes and take the vaccine if it becomes available here.
After all, some of us have received multiple vaccinations since birth. Long before the COVID-19 vaccine, there were vaccines for smallpox, cholera, measles, mumps, et cetera. And we are still alive!
And, by the way, I really don’t understand why Nigeria – which is supposed to be the Giant Of Africa – cannot produce its own vaccine and is begging Oyinbo and Chinese to share their vaccines with us.
We frequently boast about the number of brilliant brains in Nigeria and about super-clever Naija boys and girls who beat whites in classrooms at blue-chip foreign universities like Harvard and Oxford.
So why can’t these geniuses come up with an African Vaccine?