Wednesday, 2nd December, 2020

[Day 261]

Today will go down as those truly momentous days. It was announced first thing this morning that Britain’s medicines regulator, the MHRA, has ruled that the vaccine produced by Pfizer/BioNTech which offers 95% protection against COVID-19 has been approved for use. Of course, this is tremendously good news. This is exactly how the new vaccine works:

BNT162b2 uses messenger RNA that describes one of the spike proteins that stud the outer surface of SARS-CoV-2. Though human cells don’t make spike proteins, they can still read viral messenger RNA and follow its instructions. When someone receives a dose of BNT162b2, their body responds by producing the spike protein, but only the spike protein, and no other part of the virus.

Since spike proteins aren’t normally found in human cells, their presence triggers the immune system, leading to a defensive response where the proteins are removed. Now that the immune system’s had some practice, it’s ready for the real thing. If someone who was vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2 was exposed to the virus later on, their immune system is ready to react, and hopefully, fend off the virus.

Messenger RNA vaccines are relatively new on the scene, but have the potential to be safer and more effective than other vaccine types. There is no risk of getting COVID-19 from a vaccine, as the virus is never present in the body.

There is a slight downside to this good news and that is that the RNA is so fragile that the vaccine has to be stored at a temperature of -70º which is often available in specialised biological facilities but not in the typical doctor’s surgery. So it looks as though the initial supplies of the virus will be distributed to hospitals where they have specialised facilities and from here, it will be used to vaccinate NHS and other care staff in the first instance, There is then a descending scale of priorities that run from 1 to 9 with residents in a care home and the carers the first priority, 80+ and frontline health and social care workers the second priority, 75 and over the third priority (I won’t go on but personally I shall be in the this priority order and Meg being a bit younger will be in the next priority zone down the list). I suspect that it may be mid-February at the earliest that I shall personally receive a jab (with a follow up three weeks later) but at least we can say that the end is in sight – but only if combined with more conventional measures such as social distancing, face masks and gels.

Today was a bit of a dull day but nothing to stand in the way of our walk for newspapers and coffee in the park – we did have the bonus, though, that we did not have to utilise our tea-towel that we bring with us to dry the park bench as it had been dry and cold overnight. As we were starting to walk home, we met with some of our oldest friends and received some wonderful news. We informed them that we had consulted the website for our local church and ascertained that church services, subject to the normal restrictions, will start again from this weekend. We will need to make a telephone call to book our place but all being well, we are set to resume our normal church attendance from Saturday onwards (but minus any hymn singing, of course) Then our friends gave us some marvellous news. They were in touch with a group of church members who were organising a type of pilgrimage to Rome in September of next year. This will involve deploying the services of a contact in the English College in Rome (a seminary used for the training of priests) Also involved is a trip to the Sistine Chapel and perhaps even an audience with the Pope. In short, would we like to go on this trip? It took Meg and I about 0.1 second to ponder all of this and to say ‘Yes, please!” but we will have to wait for further details to arrive by email and trust that we can well and truly booked up (and it is not massively over-subscribed)

Tomorrow, Meg and I are going to make a special trip to Waitrose in Worcester. This will be a journey of about 20 minutes so but as the store is a very large and well supplied store, we thought it might be a good idea to make it into a trip here we can buy some Christmas food and drink (some of which will act as presents for some of our friends and acquaintances in any case) We haven’t been to this store before but the directions make it appear simple enough to access and there is always the Sat-Nav of course (the first time in this new car but it ought to operate like the previous one).