'I can now look forward in hope' - A dementia carer's COVID-19 vaccine story

Tony's wife, Sheila, has Alzheimer's disease and lives in a care home. He shares his experience of receiving his first dose of the coronavirus vaccination, and a new poem called The Jab.

Wednesday, 30 December 2020, 10:47am, just back from walking my dog, and, out of the blue, a life-changing phone call.

'This is the Victoria Medical Centre, am I speaking to Anthony Ward?' A full name, address and date of birth check followed, with me becoming increasingly puzzled.

'Would you like to have a COVID-19 vaccination?' Would I indeed!

'Fine, can you attend tomorrow (New Year’s Eve) at 10:45am? It will be at our Covid Vaccination Clinic inside The Beacon, in Eastbourne.'

Visiting the Medical Centre

The Victoria Medical Centre, a large GP practice, was formed in 2020 by the merger of three smaller practices. I was fortunate in being a patient of one of these.

The Clinic had been set up before Christmas in an adjoining pair of shop units, one of only a few nationally to open in a shopping centre.  It was the first vaccination hub in Sussex.

The Covid Vaccination Clinic inside The Beacon - Photo by Eastbourne Herald

The Covid Vaccination Clinic inside The Beacon - Photo: Eastbourne Herald

They wasted no time in speeding through their list of around 30,000 highest-risk people in Eastbourne, which they hope to have completed within 12 weeks.

Being in the third group down (75+ years of age), I wasn’t expecting to get my vaccination until at least the start of February!

All appointments were timed and the whole system ran like clockwork. There were six vaccinators plus numerous support staff.

I was in and out within 25 minutes, including the 15-minute wait in the adjoining unit, in case of immediate side-effects.

I was also given my proof of vaccination card and accompanying literature for my ‘Pfizer BioNtech Covid-19 mRNA Vaccine’.

Looking ahead

The second dose should have been given in 21 days, but that morning the Clinic had received the Government directive that second doses would be delayed by up to three months to make stocks go further. However, the Pfizer BioNtech Vaccine reaches 90 per cent effectiveness within two or three weeks.

I have ringed the latter date (21 January 2021) on my Calendar. Even with a single dose, should I be unlucky enough to be infected, I was encouraged to hear that my condition should not require hospitalisation.

I can now look forward in the hope that, once lockdown is lifted and the virus under control, I will be seeing Sheila again.

It inspired me to write the following short poem. This time, in a nod to William Shakespeare, I have borrowed his favourite verse form, Iambic Pentameter, to write ‘a proper poem’.

At the height of the bubonic plague in 1592-93 Shakespeare was himself in partial lockdown in London, theatres closed. There was no vaccine to come to the rescue, one quarter of the population of the city died. It is likely that, during this time, he too would have foregone visiting his wife (Anne Hathaway) and children, back home in Stratford-upon-Avon.

The Jab

by Tony Ward

The call, next day – The Beacon, mask in place,
Allotted time, no queue, checked in, next space –

“In left, or right? Expose your upper arm”
The jab. Three weeks to wait, then free from harm.

The day draws nearer now, I see it clear,
That day will come, when Covid-free, no fear.

We’ll meet again, a hug, a cup of tea,
No screen, no PPE, just you and me.

Tony sitting beside his wife, Sheila, wearing PPE

Tony sitting beside Sheila in her care home during their first reunion since the pandemic began, back in December.

16 comments

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Oh my goodness what a wonderful piece - this Vaccination is like we have all been given a 2nd chance / a genuine lifeline thrown out to us all.......... so we can go forward and live our lives hopefully in a more fulfilling and thoughtful way.

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God Bless ❤️❤️❤️

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So heartening to hear your story Tony, as Alzheimer’s waits for no man. I lost my dear Mum to Covid in May, and there is not a day goes by that I don’t wish I could hug her. Mum was in a care home, and couldn’t understand why I wasn’t going to see her. Those who have loved ones with this dreadful disease will know the importance of regular contact that person needs with those closest to them. Stay safe all.

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We in New Zealand have been so blessed to have ( so far) escaped the clutches of the pandemic. Your relief to get your jab is palpable and we have looked on in distress for you all hearing the horrendous struggle of hate NHS and the high rates of infection and loss of life.. And the difficulties of ongoing lockdown and high rates of transmission
We send our thoughts and condolences and appreciate the small joys as reading the relief from the poem that hope is gaining traction .. stay well. Cate from Hamilton NZ

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Hopeful for a safe future lovely x

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Thank you for sharing your uplifting story of hope Tony. I am so glad that you will soon be sitting with your wife Sheila again.... Wishing you both much happiness in the weeks and months ahead...

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Love that poem god bless Tony and hope he’s soon able to see his wife Sheila. Very best wishes to them both.

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I am so pleased for you both. I hope you will be allowed to hug your wife. I am only so no jab yet! Married for 56 years. I too long for a hug. Christmas ‘21 perhaps?

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What a lovely positive story Tony and your poem sums up your experience so very eloquently. Looking forward to when we can all meet up with friends and family and not social distance.

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Thank you for sharing your experience Tony. The day will come when we all can HUG again. Jennifer

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Good news that you have had your jab Tony and hopefully will be able to spend meaningful time with Sheila very soon.
My mum is 82 and a resident in a care home. So far no date for her vaccination, I hope the Government will keep its promise of care home residents being priority for the vaccine.

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How lovely to hear Tony's positivity jumping from the page.
Am feeling less positive here as my mum is waiting for a bed at a local home. The residents have received a jab but there is no sign of vaccinations for the staff, who were also meant to be top of the list.
I look forward to hearing more positive news like Tony's and hope he and his wife are reunited very soon xx

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My wife Valerie has been in Bradley House nursing home , Sale since 3/6/20 with Dementia,I am restricted to three face time calls a week, and have never been in the building
Valerie is 85 and I am 87 years of age, we have been married for 61 years , very happily.

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Lovey poem I know it is very difficult for you God Bless

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My husband is in urgent need for a hug from me. He has been in a care home for over three years and it is now10 months since we have been able to hug each other. The lockdowns have resulted in my husband’s Alzheimer’s deteriorating at a greater speed than anticipated. Luckily he still knows me via phone calls etc. BUT WE BOTH NEED A HUG.
I sympathise with Tony & Sheila, love the poem and send my very best wishes to both of them.

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