Back in February I wrote about my own personal experience having received the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, and the positive impact that it had on me personally. I am delighted to be able to say that many club members (although obviously not all) have now also been vaccinated.
During this time I also became a vaccinator myself and have vaccinated approximately 75 people. I would have to say that it has been one of the most rewarding things that I have done in the 30 years that I have been a doctor.
In terms of the COVID-19 pandemic overall, I thought I would take the opportunity to give you my own thoughts from a medical point of view and discuss briefly what we has individuals and as a club can continue to do to improve the situation.
The virus has inevitably mutated into a more transmissible variant (“Delta”) and this is most likely not the last variant that we will see. The upshot is that infection rates remain extremely high. This tends to be in the younger age group of 15-29 years of age, mainly because this group are only partly vaccinated as of yet. Although hospitalisations have been markedly reduced, we are still seeing quite a significant number of people being admitted to hospital and now we are starting to see young men and women in their 20s very unwell in the intensive care unit.
So, whilst we are going in the right direction and are coming into the end game of this bizarre and challenging situation, the virus can still cause major disruption. With this in mind, I would encourage every member of the club, from teenagers up to the oldest members, to get themselves vaccinated as soon as possible.
I know there have been concerns about the various vaccines that have been amplified incorrectly on social media. However, looking at the proper scientific data shows the incidence of severe side effects from any of the vaccines is extremely rare and much less than the risk of acute COVID, or more worryingly, Long COVID which we know very little about as of yet.
This remains an illness that you do not want to get, no matter what age you are, with some recent work showing that it may she calls a destruction of brain tissue in a significant number of people, which highlights the seriousness of the situation.
All adult club members are now in a position to be able to register for vaccination, and indeed my own local pharmacist in Roscam just received a supply of single shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine which he was giving to 3 young men in the short time that I was in his premises yesterday. I would encourage people to also look at this route of utilising the pharmacists.
As I said, the side effect profile for severe side effects is extremely rare and I myself have given over 75 people two doses of vaccine which I think shows the level of trust that I have personally in the vaccines, and that almost all of my medical colleagues do as well.
The only way to beat this virus and return to normality is via vaccination. By being vaccinated you are protecting not only yourself but also those around you, including those who for other reasons cannot be vaccinated.
One of the amazing aspects of rugby is team work, where people are willing to put themselves in physical danger for the betterment of the team overall. If you are willing to put body on the line for your teammates on the rugby field, I think that same sense of team work and interest in the betterment of others will help you to decide that vaccination is in not only your best interest, but the team and the community’s best interest too.
I would also point out that we need to remain vigilant in terms of minimisation of social and physical contact, maintaining social distancing, mask wearing where necessary, not sharing car journeys with each other unless everyone is vaccinated, not sharing equipment and sticking to pods of 15 (or the appropriate number) in training, and filling out the fitness to play declaration on every occasion throughout all levels of the club.
One positive case has the possibility of taking out 15 players for 2 weeks, not only from training and playing but also from work and all other social contact. We all have a responsibility to each other and to the club in general to minimise the risks of any of us transmitting the virus if we are positive.
As I said previously in February, vaccines are the way out of this intolerable situation we are in and I am delighted that this prediction is coming true. We are in a much better position than we were at at almost any stage over the last 18 months, and there is certainly hope not just on the horizon, but much closer than that.
I would encourage every club member for the sake of themselves, an their teammates, the club and the community in general to get themselves vaccinated as quickly as possible, to believe in fact and hard science, and to put your faith in what to see around you in terms of how effective the vaccines have been to date. By pulling together and looking after each other, we will see this out until the end and return to a significant sense of normality over the next couple of months.
I would like to applaud everyone for the phenomenal efforts that they have put in over the last 18 months, especially the efforts of those who stepped forward to volunteer as COVID compliance officers, as well as the club officers who have always taken this situation very seriously, and have been open to listening to my suggestions and advice.
I think all of us deserve an evening of celebration sometime in the future and I would be very hopeful that that will be in the next couple of months.
Best of luck to everyone in this new season and remember, PLEASE GET VACCINATED!
Prof. David Bouchier-Hayes (DBH)
Club COVID Safety Officer and Medical Supervisor