Letters: I took an oath to preserve life. But at what cost to my own?

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I WRITE as a serving police officer, a uniformed response officer answering 999 calls in one of the Scottish cities, to highlight the increasing concern and confusion amongst officers as to why we are not being prioritised for the Covid vaccine. I fully accept and understand that the elderly and most vulnerable must be the absolute first priority. And I know that many other key workers also have a case.

But since March last year I’ve been brought into daily contact with the public and at distances of less than two metres. I have had to perform CPR with other colleagues, doing so with no PPE on while paramedics suit up outside. I’ve arrested numerous people and had the resulting physical contact and proximity for prolonged periods in police vehicles and small holding cells while we wait to be processed. I’ve dealt with detainees who have had epileptic fits and had to provide first aid. I’ve been one of the first on scene to those who have been stabbed. I’ve broken up fights. I’ve attended countless house parties and broken them up. I’ve policed mass protests. I’ve been sent to the side of rivers to find those contemplating suicide, having to protect them and convey them to the appropriate help. I’ve been one of six police officers required to physically restrain someone on an acid trip in an A&E resus bed, the saliva-filled spit hood inches from my hands once it was taken off for medical attention to be given.

I’ve been in more houses than I can count, numerous hotel rooms, various hospital wards, ridden in the back of more than one ambulance (on occasion restraining those inside to stop them being violent to paramedics), been in at least two A&E departments countless times, and attended at three different mental health units multiple times. I car-share with a colleague for about eight hours a day, and that car is used on average by another four people in the day. I have been deployed operationally across five local authority areas and in all of this dealt with hundreds of different people and households.

The immediacy of our work doesn’t always allow for nice considerations about PPE. There isn’t always time to get a pair of gloves on before you jump out of a car to split up a fight. To date I haven’t knowingly had any symptoms but I believe I must have been asymptomatic given the sheer volume of contacts I have.

If this virus, and the new strain, is really different, if we are being told that younger people shouldn’t be complacent, we shouldn’t think it won’t affect us, if it can be deadly even to us, then am I required to carry on regardless? When will I be offered protection from this horrible virus? Or which of my duties above do I stop doing to protect myself?

I took an oath to preserve life. But at what cost to me?

Name and address supplied.

GOVERNMENT ACTION IS SHAMBOLIC

WAS I alone today (January 25) in being utterly astonished when listening to the First Minister in her daily Covid briefing boldly announcing that her Government is considering a “pilot of 24/7 vaccine arrangements” and that it is “looking at all sorts of ways to accelerate the Covid-19 vaccination programme”? The First Minister and her Health Secretary have known for months of the likelihood of multiple vaccines becoming available, but what has become clearer on a day-to-day basis is the total lack of imagination and logistical planning to roll out the vaccine efficiently and at a rapid pace.

Only in the last few days the Army has been called in whilst those experienced medical volunteers ready to be vaccinators spend hours filling in forms. If the situation was not so serious it would be almost laughable to hear of a “pilot” scheme this far into any planning arrangements. It is nothing short of shambolic, but regretfully something to which we are all becoming accustomed. How disappointing for our businesses, jobs and our children.

Richard Allison, Edinburgh EH46.

WHY AM I BEING IGNORED?

I WAS an NHS dentist for more than 50 years. I estimate that the average dentist does thousands of injections into the mouths of patients every year.

I recently offered my services to help with giving Covid injections to the public. I was told that my services were not needed. I would happily have taken a short refresher course if required.

I could teach a smart Bonobo (a pygmy chimp) to give an intramuscular injection. But to give a mandibular block in the mouth, you need to go in three inches to hit an area the size of a match-head, with an anxious patient in the chair, now that takes skill and experience.

I have no idea what is happening at the centre of power but have come to the conclusion that those in charge could not organise a p***-up in a brewery.

LB MacDonald, Paisley.

WIDER VACCINE ROLL-OUT NEEDED

WHILE the over-65 age group represents around 20 per cent of the Scottish population, the 15-65 age group, at 65%, is more than three times greater. Moreover, current science tells us one in three of the general population carry Covid – meaning more than a million people in this larger age group alone are likely to carry the virus with the potential to pass it to others. This includes the new, possibly more deadly, variant which has become dominant.

While sequential prioritisation of the most vulnerable may win one important battle, it will never win this war. Breaking the transmission mechanism (the chain of infection) is the only guarantee. The sooner we can do this the better. Here the importance of personal responsibility cannot be over emphasised. Modifying behaviour is, however, proving illusive and an ongoing challenge during this more intensive second wave: our eyes do not lie, witness the traffic levels on our roads (compared with the April lockdown) and our daily experience of the lack of social distancing while out shopping, exercising, queuing to pay for petrol or picking up a take-away and more.

A wider and more rapid run-out of the vaccine is urgently needed not only to protect the most vulnerable but also to help break the chain of infection. The Scottish Government needs to redouble its efforts not only to ensure the distribution and delivery mechanism is well formed and fully fit for purpose – something yet to be demonstrated – but that the vaccine is available in sufficient quantity to support more rapid roll-out. Can Scottish life sciences – a recognised key sector with manufacturing capability – perhaps provide some faster and more innovative solutions to address supply bottle-necks?

Ewen Peters, Giffnock.

COVID BLAME GAME IS NOT HELPFUL

ERIC Melvin (Letters, January 23) continues with his regular condemnation of the UK Government, including now on not having closed our borders back in March in response to Covid, which we learn was proposed by the Home Secretary.

But the PM had little option but to follow the advice from his scientific and medical advisers in Sage (despite others taking different lines) and it was clear then and in some cases for weeks thereafter that they were against, dismissive or ambivalent about closing airports, closing schools, wearing face masks and even about the efficacy of testing.

Both Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance initially asserted that a lockdown too early would not be sustained long enough by the public and would risk a second and worse wave. That wave did of course occur despite lockdown’s implementation on March 23, ie within days of their changed advice. They also support extending the second vaccine from three to 12 weeks after the first; so let us hope their judgment on that is well-founded.

We should not necessarily blame the experts, as they too have been learning more every day about this awful virus, but nor should “the Government” and/or “the PM” always be pilloried for trying to manage a difficult balancing act between lives and livelihoods, physical and mental health, short-term and long-term effects, the old and young, and the immense financial and other costs inherent in all such decisions.

I assume Mr Melvin as a keen EU supporter would have advocated our participation in the EU’s vaccine policy; but the one area where the UK Government does seem to have acted correctly and swiftly, and in sharp contrast to the EU Commission and EU members, is in our vaccines procurement. He might have acknowledged that.

John Birkett, St Andrews.

ASTRAZENECA PROFITS ARE A GOOD THING
ALLISTAIR Matheson (Letters, January 22) writes somewhat disdainfully that he expects AstraZeneca to start raking in substantial profits from the manufacture of its vaccine once the pandemic has ceased, and the Covid-19 virus becomes endemic.

However, there is a silver lining to this cloud. If AstraZeneca makes significant profits, then it will become liable for considerable amounts of corporation tax. The dividends passed onto the shareholders will attract income tax, and when eventually sold, the shares will potentially incur a capital gains tax liability.

This increase in tax revenues from a prospering organisation and population is precisely what the country will need to rebuild its economy.Christopher W Ide, Waterfoot.

We need imaginative thinking to get us of this lockdown mess

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