BLOG: ‘We need to listen to medical experts right now about the Covid-19 vaccine’

Liverpool-born actor and science communicator, Stephen McGann on why we should place trust in those telling us the Covid vaccine is safe…

Dr Bracey, his name was. He had a surgery on Kensington near to the library, where we all grew up. It’s the late Sixties, and the doctor’s just contacted my mum to tell her that he’s got the measles vaccine in. She grabs me and my sister Clare by the hand and frog marches us to the surgery to be jabbed. I can still see the certainty in her face – and hear the lecture she gives us about that small needle in the arm being something we’d thank her for in years to come. 

It’s true. I do. 

Two of her own kids had already had severe measles. She’d seen the dark side of that deadly infection for herself, and didn’t need telling when the gift horse arrived. So when the recent news of the Covid-19 vaccine broke, my mum was the first one I rang. I wanted to know what she thought about being one of the first in line to receive the new jab. She’s 85, and still in Liverpool. 

‘I can’t wait! I don’t understand these people who won’t take it. They must be soft! It’s going to give us our lives back.’

My mum was ten when the war ended. She was still a kid when the new National Health Service was founded. She watched as her working-class family was tended to without cost by the kind of medical experts her parents had previously struggled to pay for. She witnessed her own children’s lives saved by their work – my own included. She received ground-breaking ear surgery in Liverpool’s Royal, performed by a pioneering surgeon who cost her nothing. That gave her a whole career as a teacher she would otherwise never have had. A whole different life. A miracle. A gift horse. 

The only cost to her was a debt of trust. A trust in those medical experts who’d given so much to her and her family. A trust that they’d always do their very best for her, and that their advice could be relied on when she most needed it.

It’s a funny thing, trust. We actually use it every day without thinking. Whenever we stick a ready meal into the microwave, or travel on the bus, or put money in the bank. In this complex world, it’s impossible to know everything about every single detail that affects us – like what’s in the food we’re eating, or the tablets we’re taking, or the booze we’re drinking. So we make the decision every day to trust a thousand different strangers – the people who make our meals, or who drive the bus we ride on, or who work in our bank. We trust those people not to poison us, or injure us, or rob us. Otherwise we’d never leave the house! A life without that kind of trust would be no life at all.

But a lack of that trust can be like a virus. Once it infects you with suspicion, it can make you feverish. Make you see things that aren’t there, or imagine that the things which are there must be trying to hurt you. Worst of all, it can make you suspicious of the very people who’ve spent their whole lives trying to look after you and your family’s health. The midwife who brought your baby into the world. The surgeon who fixed your dad’s heart. The local doctor who cared for your nan. You’ve always trusted them, haven’t you? And they’ve always come through for you? 

So what’s different now?

These same medical people are telling you that you can trust this new vaccine. Your midwife. Your doctor. The surgeon who saved your life. They’re all telling you that their colleagues have tested this vaccine thoroughly. It works! Brilliantly. It’s a miracle. A gift horse. They want you to have your life back! Free of charge. 

Aren’t they worth trusting?

In 2020, Liverpool has shown that it’s still a world leader in public health. The recent mass test pilot for Covid-19 has demonstrated that we are able to come together when the chips are down, and trust in the experts who care for us when we most need to listen to them.

We need to listen to them right now about the Covid-19 vaccine.

Today, when you go about your business, you’ll trust that your bus driver has a license to drive without demanding to see it. You’ll trust that the microwave meal you eat won’t contain any poison in it before you eat it. You’ll trust that the smiling cashier in your bank isn’t a thief before you give them your money.

So how about we give the same trust to those people who’ve saved your life, or stopped your pain, or delivered your baby? 

The vaccine’s safe. They give you their word. And their word is the same good word that has transformed my life, my mum’s life, and the life of my Kensington family from the birth of the NHS to the present day.  

That word is good enough for me. I hope it is for you too.