It is 5 p.m., it is already pitch dark but the queue is long – around fifty people, elderly couples are waiting in the icy rain this Thursday, January 14, behind the stands of the Hive, the stadium hosting the Barnet Football Club in Harrow, North West London. Inside the vast building, transformed into a vaccination center, it is a real hive. Employees of the National Health Service (NHS), the British public hospital, are busy in surgical masks and gowns, people are waiting their turn, seated in front of a dozen vaccination boxes.
At the reception, we check the appointments (mandatory to be vaccinated) and the national identification numbers of the NHS. “Come back tomorrow, we are overwhelmed”, on the fly the person in charge of the place. Outside, the parking lot is full and a handful of volunteers are waiting for the cars which keep arriving. The site opened in mid-December 2020, to cover this suburb where the middle classes live, with a high proportion of British of Indian origin, and it is running at full speed.
The next day, in the early hours of the day, the line almost disappeared. We only meet a young woman waiting for her vaccine, she works in a pharmacy. “I am delighted to have been summoned, I will no longer represent a risk for my mother, who is very fragile and has been isolated for months”, she confides. Faced with a brutal third wave, the British government has set itself a very ambitious goal (for England, knowing that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own health strategies). By February 15, he wants to have administered at least one dose of vaccine to all over 70 years, health workers and retirement homes (12 million people in England).
“Maybe people prefer to make an appointment after work”, notes Atul Purohit, pointing to the stadium parking lot, which is almost empty. ” Next week, we should start vaccinating the over 70s, almost all over 80s will have been ”, continues, delighted, this 63-year-old retiree, ex-doctor of the NHS. Talkative and precise, Mr. Purohit says he volunteered to help with logistics at the site, “Because this campaign is crucial, people need to be vaccinated as quickly as possible, we can see that the virus is starting to mutate. At first, some only wanted the “English” vaccine, the Oxford-AstraZeneca, they were afraid that the Pfizer-BioNTech [vaccin à ARN messager] change their DNA. But it’s over, people just want to be vaccinated ”, he says.
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