In the 1950s Britain, a district nurse used to go from house to house giving life-saving medication to people with a certain illness. The medication was insulin. The illness was diabetes. Nowadays, around the world, diabetics are injecting themselves with insulin every day. They are in better control of their illness and able to monitor it themselves.
One day, the NHS (national health service) decided they didn’t have the resources and staffing to send a district nurse to people’s homes to give them their insulin. So, instead, anyone with diabetes who was deemed capable, was taught how to inject themselves with their insulin.
But surely that’s quite hard? Surely there must be a lot of practice and trial and error, before people learn this skill?
What if I told you there wasn’t?
When I had a Caesarian Section last year, I was discharged with eight pre-loaded syringes of something called Clexane. This is a blood thinner to stop you getting a blood clot after major surgery while you are recovering. I had to inject myself with it for eight days. It was as straightforward as finding a place to put it, putting the needle against my skin and pressing the plunger down. It stung, and sometimes left bruising, but it was only for eight days so that was largely irrelevant.
But surely that only works for that one thing?
Nope. In January, my son was rushed to A + E with anaphylaxis. He has a peanut allergy. We were given an Epi-Pen and told how to use it. An Epi-Pen, like Clexane, is a pre-loaded syringe which anyone can use.
They are saying they can’t get the vaccine to people fast enough in the UK because they don’t have enough trained clinicians who can do it. My question is, why are we using trained clinicians at all? Why are we not just going door-to-door, asking how many live in the house, and handing out the right number of pre-loaded vaccine syringes?
Normally, we have accepted the cultural myth that vaccines are delivered in a clinical environment such as a hospital or school, but right now, in the current state of emergency, when the whole world is depending on getting this vaccine before life can return to normal, it makes absolutely no sense that trained clinicians are the limiting factor stopping the vaccine from being rolled out. Worse than that, the mass clinics, like the one I was asked to attend for my flu vaccine in December, are a hotspot for spreading a virus like this. People will get the virus before the vaccine can protect them.
Now, some of the approved vaccines need to be stored in a particular way. But there is already capacity to maintain those storage conditions during delivery, otherwise it wouldn’t safely get to clinics. Other Covid vaccines don’t need to be stored in such specific conditions. Assuming the pre-loaded syringes can cope with the temperature at which the vaccine needs to be stored (some plastic goes very brittle under extreme low temperature), all of them could be put into pre-loaded syringes.
Nothing about this approach makes any sense. If the vaccine is the sole end-point of this mass vaccination program, it would be good if the vaccine companies re-think their delivery method, put the vaccine into pre-loaded syringes and give them out that way.
If not… then what is the purpose of this program? Is its secondary purpose to record who has definitively received the vaccine rather than who was given the correct number of syringes for their household? Why? If, as has been said, there are no plans to restrict the movements of those who have not been vaccinated, why is the vaccine not being manufactured in pre-loaded syringes and given out to people door-to-door for immediate use?