Seven weeks ago, in early December, an Ireland Thinks poll for the Irish Daily Mail suggested that 70% of Irish people were eager to take the Covid Vaccine.
Now, after three weeks of renewed lockdown, and a vaccination programme underway? That figure has surged to 86%:
Ireland Thinks / Mail on Sunday
Q. Would you take the Covid-19 Vaccine?
Yes: 86% (+16)
No: 7% (-7)
Undecided: 7% (-9)
17th January 2021
+/- 28th November 2020
— Next Irish General Election (@NextIrishGE) January 17, 2021
That’s a significant shift, outside the margin of error. What’s driving it? We can only speculate, but much of this was predictable, nonetheless.
For one thing, the vaccine is not a theoretical product any longer. Many of those who may have feared it, or felt that the approval process has been rushed, or worried about side effects, will have been able to observe the fact that over 4 million people in the United Kingdom have received the vaccine now, with no notable incidence of nasty side effects. While some concern has been raised in Norway about the potential for side-effects to be more severe in the elderly, and those with terminal illness (some 23 deaths are being investigated) the fact remains that after tens of millions of doses worldwide, we’re reading news reports about deaths in the single digits. Those are good statistics, for any drug, or treatment.
Second, we’ve entered a second full lockdown, with schools closed, and businesses shuttered. That’s likely to focus the mind. Many of us, yours truly included, had held on to some hope back in the autumn that Covid might just sort of fade away, or become less severe, over time. Instead, the fear now is that it will mutate further than it already has, and manage to achieve vaccine escape. A quick vaccination programme, which is successful, is therefore our only realistic hope of escaping Covid for good in the foreseeable future.
Take those two shifts in circumstance together, and you get a 16 point surge in people willing to take the vaccine. Throw in the very likely adoption of illiberal measures to coerce people into taking the vaccine (like this story from Ben over the weekend) and the Government will probably get well over 90% of the population to take it in the end. That’s not to endorse things like vaccine certificates for pubs and airlines – but there’s not much we can do about them here except point out that they’re abuses of power.
Separately, the vaccine is already proving so popular that there are controversies about who’s getting it. From the Irish Times:
The master of the Coombe maternity hospital in Dublin has apologised after it emerged the hospital gave Covid-19 vaccines to 16 family members of staff.
Prof Michael O’Connell, the hospital’s manager, said he now regrets that relatives of hospital employees were vaccinated with doses left over on Friday, January 8th after more than 1,100 doses were given to frontline staff, GPs and local community health workers.
Two of the recipients are understood to be Dr O’Connell’s children, one of whom is college-going age, and is a paid part-time worker in his private medical practice. The other works intermittently in the hospital as an unpaid worker.
There is, predictably, outrage about this, and that’s understandable. We’ve always had a problem in this country with “who you know” being more important than “what you know”, and this is another example of that.
On the other hand though, the outrage is a bit O.T.T.
For one thing, 16 more people vaccinated is better than 16 doses of the vaccine being flushed down the toilet, which is the alternative, since the vaccine has a hard use-by date once cracked open. For another thing, many medical staff have had to live with the worry that they’ll be the ones to bring Covid home from the hospital to relatives with underlying conditions. If anyone’s going to benefit from a bit of traditional Irish cronyism, it’s hard to begrudge doctors and nurses – even if a maternity hospital isn’t normally what you’d think of as the Covid front lines.
What’s more telling is the fact that the Government has no guidelines in place about what to do with the excess doses. They’ve had some time to get a vaccine rollout plan in place, and this kind of thing is still happening. That doesn’t inspire confidence. And, with the new public demand for the vaccines, getting this done right, with no cock-ups, will go a big way to defining this Government’s legacy.
It’s not started particularly well.