Illustrations by Hannah Robinson

Ever since that fateful day in March where the United Kingdom was put into lockdown, there has been one thing getting people through: the thought of a vaccine. The mystery virus that has touched every corner of the world and impacted everyone could be confined to history if the vaccine is successful. Back in March that felt like a very distant hope, but we are finally in the situation where it is a very real possibility. Margaret Keenan, a 91 year old from Coventry, was the first person in the UK to be vaccinated on the 8th of December 2020. This has the potential to be the beginning of the end for the relentless lockdowns and restrictions we have all had to face over the last 11 months.

However, there is a significant number of people in the UK who would not take the vaccine if or when they are offered it. A recent poll found that a third of Britons would be unwilling to take the vaccine, predominantly due to concerns that it is not safe or that there will be unknown long-term side effects. These fears have only been worsened through the rise of anti-vax social media spreading mis-information that looks and sounds like it could be real science.

One of the most upsetting claims to have been made is that the vaccine contains aborted foetal tissue. This was circulated on an anti-vax Facebook page and has since spread through the anti-vax community and different social media platforms. However, this is just one of the many cases where the complex scientific process of creating a vaccine was taken out of context and over simplified. The truth in this conspiracy is that the scientists used cultures of human cells in a lab to see how it would react before human trials. It is not a part of the vaccine, instead a vital part of the formation process. There is an explanation for every vaccine-related conspiracy theory out there. No, the government is not trying to track you with a microchip, much like COVID is not a side effect of 5G cell towers.

It is very easy to debunk such baseless nonsense in an attempt to encourage people to take the vaccine, but what I want to do is paint the picture of what may happen if we don’t have mass immunisation.

The United Kingdom is currently the embarrassment of Europe after reporting over 50,000 new COVID cases a day for six days in a row in December and January. On the 13th there were 1,564 deaths in reported in one day – the most since the pandemic began. The virus is getting out of control and even with the third national lockdown, it is unlikely that this will be effective to eradicate the virus. Without a vaccine this small island nation, with an incompetent government, is doomed to repeat the same cycle we have been in for almost a year. Lockdown leads to cases falling; restrictions are relaxed too fast, cases rise, and we go back into lockdown: this has the potential to be a never-ending sequence of infection.

The arrival of the vaccine brings a potential end to this cycle and our lives back to a degree of normality. People’s mental health could start to recover after a year of total or partial isolation. Those most vulnerable could begin to feel safe again. Families could reunite. Whilst the process of vaccinating the entire nation is going to be a long process, it takes all of us to cooperate for it to be fully effective. So please, if you are given the opportunity, take the vaccine.