Ben Lowry: I jumped at the chance to get my booster jab this week

On Tuesday I was in the queue that you can see pictured above at the Ulster Hospital for booster jabs.

I wasn’t working that day and jumped at the chance to get my third injection, after it was opened to over 40s.

I knew that there would be a long line of other people seeking their booster, because the delays had been widely reported, not least that morning on our front page.

My plan was to be in line by 8.30am, before the clinic opened, but this good intention fell by the wayside and I did not get there until after 10am, by when the queue was far longer than it seems in that image — it was snaking round a courtyard at the side of the building.

People queuing at the COVID-19 vaccination centre at Dundonald Hospital in east Belfast on Tuesday the day after boosters were opened up for the over 40s. Ben Lowry was in that queue, which snaked round a courtyard and took almost three hours. Pic:: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

It was a long, cold wait and I finally left the building three hours later. But I was not annoyed by the lost time. Instead, I felt delighted as most of us do when we have got a pre Christmas chore out of the way.

And I felt lucky too. You see until last weekend I was not due to get my booster until the start of February.

The reason for this was simple — I had significantly delayed getting my first vaccine, not because I had any doubts about it but because I became eligible in April, when the virus seemed to be in retreat.

The jab programme was being rapidly rolled out across the UK, one of the fastest such programmes in the world. The vulnerable and elderly people I most know had been doubled jabbed by then. I was busy at work, I did not feel much at risk, and booking a slot seemed a hassle. It was weeks after becoming eligible that I got my first jab.

By the time of my second jab in August, it was increasingly clear the success of the vaccine programme was not in fact going to eradicate Covid as quickly as we all hoped.

While I did not feel much at risk from the virus, being in my 40s, I began to realise that I had not thought hard enough about a key reason for the vaccination — helping to stop its spread.

As another restricted Christmas loomed, and the importance of boosters in maintaining immunity became more clear, I began to regret not having moved more quickly in April, and not having taken earlier advantage of the one thing the UK has got right in this pandemic — its vaccine rollout.

Meanwhile, in October I was in Manchester, reporting on the Conservative Party conference.

It was the first time I had had a sense of an almost complete return to normality. While numbers at the conference were down, and while the main conference hall had far fewer seats, almost no-one was wearing a mask.

Everyone was shaking hands, so that any attempt to greet someone with an elbow bump seemed sanctimonious or rude.

People gathered in close proximity at coffee stands or at the hotel bar.

There were ideological reasons for this of course, and the much trumpeted belief in ‘liberty’ in much of the modern Conservative Party.

These are not instincts which I share, because to me conservatism and libertarianism are not the same thing (I have strongly supported seat belt laws since my teens and I first became aware of statistics that showed the extent to which they slashed road deaths).

But regardless of my own views on such matters, Manchester confirmed me in my belief that lockdowns have become almost impossible.

The public will not tolerate or obey them any more. Even in January it was apparent that people were not following the rules the way they did early last year. Most people make an intuitive assessment as to whether or not they are at risk.

Older people, for example, have almost universally taken up the offer of vaccines because they realise the dangers that coronavirus poses for their age group. Many younger people were like me — they failed to get jabbed not because they are sceptics but because they don’t see it as a priority.

The sceptics are in fact small in number. We took a video of Belfast Market (which is attached to the web version of this article) and in more than an hour could not find anyone who objected to showing proof to get into the market. That might be because we were so close to the market, but we could not even find sceptics when we asked people well away from City Hall.

The main reason I support vax passports (ie proof of jabs in certain circumstances) is that they nudge otherwise unmotivated people to bring forward the jab they always intended to get at some point.

And because they are the only alternative to the injustice — and for some people ruin — of lockdowns.

• Ben Lowry (@Benlowry2) is News Letter editor. Other articles by him below and beneath that information on how to subscribe to the paper:

• Ben Lowry Dec 11: Joint anthem at Northern Ireland games would be a ploy to undermine it

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