Mixed messaging by governments around the world has sowed confusion and helped to spread the COVID-19 virus, says NIC MITCHELL, who recently had the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine

Perhaps it is not surprising that so few people in countries like France and Germany have accepted invitations to have the coronavirus vaccine – with their political leaders sending out confusing messages about its effectiveness, particularly among the older population.

The AstraZeneca jab, developed in partnership with Oxford University, seems to have suffered most by careless comments by statesmen, such as French president Emmanuel Macron who has just done a screeching volte-face worthy of our own prime minister Boris Johnson.

French president Emmanuel Macron. Image:The Connexion

Just witness the U-turn by the French leader after saying earlier this year that he thought the Oxford-AstraZeneca was only “quasi-effective” in the over-65s. 

Now Macron and his government officials are in a panic after data showed that just 4% of the French population had been vaccinated by the end of February, compared with 28% in the United Kingdom and the 43-year-old French president claims he’d have the jab tomorrow – but sadly isn’t in the priority age or health group!

Merkel hasn’t helped

Germany’s Angela Merkel hasn’t really helped either to overcome suspicion and fears about whether the Covid vaccines are safe and effective.

Asked whether she had received the jab developed with the help of British boffins, the German Chancellor told German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: “I am 66 years old and I do not belong to the group recommended for AstraZeneca.”

Of course, that’s technically true – in Germany at least – where health bosses are sticking with their guidelines and not giving it to the over 65s for now!  

German Chancellor Angela Merkel Image: The Conversation

But at the same time Merkel has been quoted saying the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and highly effective and can save lives.

Hardly surprising that just 6% of Germans have been vaccinated so far and that the right-wing leaning British Daily Mail newspaper had a double-page spread with a photograph of a near-deserted vaccination hall in Cologne. 

Covid cases soaring in Europe

The headline underneath summed it up: “Toxic rumours. Bungling politicians. And jab centres lying empty while Covid cases soar.”

And that’s just the point! As countries mark the first anniversary of the first wave of the pandemic and the subsequent chaotic late lockdowns and early re-openings, which saw the UK have among the worst death tolls from the virus in the world, there are worrying signs that COVID-19 is making a comeback and mutating with new and more contagious strains being imported by travellers from abroad.

Just as people in countries like the UK can see the number of deaths and cases falling and, perhaps over optimistically, start dreaming of going down the pub again or lying on a beach on the Spanish Costas, the virus is ready to strike-back – thanks, in part, to the anti-vaxxers and mixed messaging.

Bright spot

A rare few bright spot in this whole sorry saga has been the record-breaking speed of developing vaccines, like those produced by Pfizer/Biotech, Oxford-AstraZeneca and others to be yet to be fully-approved in the West, such as Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine which is already being used in Hungary.

But unless people accept the invitation to have the jabs when their turn comes, we will be living in this on-off lockdown world for years to come, and you might as well forget about the summer festivals and holidays abroad.

I feel I have a right to say this as someone just slightly older than Angela Merkel. I had my first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab at the end of February and had no side-effects, apart from a good night’s sleep, and I spent a year having chemotherapy and fighting cancer in 2015.

The Middlesbrough doctor’s surgery where I had the vaccine told me they were doing 400 jabs a day and the whole operation went like clockwork literally, with patients given appointments five minutes apart and a small socially-distanced queue of seven or eight people outside being channelled through in record-breaking time.

My wife had the Pfizer jab a few weeks earlier and apart from a slightly sore arm and a little tiredness for about 24 hours, she felt fine afterwards.

So, if you get the offer of the vaccine, don’t waste the opportunity to save not just yourself from serious illness, or possible early death, but also help protect everyone else you come in contact with.

Listen to one of the few people who can communicate clearly in the UK government, the metaphor-loving English deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, who has helped bungling British political leaders out of more mixed messaging messes than he’s had hot dinners.

He has urged people not to throw away the chance to win the match (against the coronavirus) while being 3-nil up by letting your guard down. So, don’t forget the ‘Stay Safe’ advice and social-distancing or we could end up losing the fight against the virus 3-4 in the last quarter of the battle, as Van-Tam would say!

Main image:ArabNews

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