The government and their scientists want 16 and 17 year olds to have the vaccine. I won’t let that happen to mine. My wife won’t either. Not while we have breath with which to say no.
I’ve read over and over again that children face a tiny threat from the virus. The vaccine has been approved and licensed. But, given that the vaccine is new, and described by some as still in the experimental phase, when we do not have – and cannot have, not for years yet – data about the long term effects of injecting those products into the still-developing, unformed bodies of children and teenagers, then the potential threat to them from the vaccines must be greater than the threat from the virus.
As I must always, I concede that that is how I understand what I have read and been told, by the experts, from the beginning. But it’s not only about science, is it? I don’t want to venture any further back into the science of it all – the claims and counterclaims.
By now it is, anyway, beyond that for me. For me it is simply about ethical behaviour and also morality. The balance of risk between virus and vaccine is contested. Some will argue it is worth giving children the jab. Essentially, for me, it all boils down to one question - do I want to stand safe behind a wall of shields borne by children?
My answer is no, I don’t. For me there is no war into which I would enlist children. Not for any reason. In my understanding of parenthood – indeed, of adulthood – the children stand behind us, safe from potential harm for as long as possible, in the centre of a circle made of adults facing outwards, adults for whom the most precious gift on earth is the privilege – the honour and privilege – to stand between those children, and any possible danger.
Children can be brave, are often braver than adults, but this fight should not be theirs. This story, played out over the last year and half and likely a long, long way from finished, is touching now on epic themes: the rights of the individual, freedom, children.
There are polarised views about who has the meaningful say on those rights, that freedom, our children. We are all being made to choose, to take sides. Some choices - I think - are deliberately being made easier than others. I am still getting letters – more and more in fact. The addresses on the envelopes are still fun, but the contents are growing harder and harder to bear.
More and more people are writing about good and evil, about the search for light in the dark, about fear – even dread – of the future. I find them harder and harder to read. But I read every one and I always will. It is an honour to receive them.
Most heartbreaking is the palpable loneliness of so many people who have coped as best they can for a year and a half but who are running low on hope, if indeed they have any hope left at all. I say to those people hold on and look up and ahead to better days. It shouldn’t be like this – for so many people in this country we share, so much overlooked loneliness and hopelessness – so many people bullied and made to feel bad just for being alive in the world.
For what it’s worth, I want to say to all those people who have been in touch with me that none of us needs to feel alone, not really and at least not entirely. And to everyone feeling the same emotions of loneliness, fear, confusion and that sense of having been betrayed and cut adrift by those we thought were meant to have our best interests at heart – I say there are millions that will stand by you, shoulder to shoulder. It turns out we were together all along, even though we did not know it.
Though we may not meet in the real world, we are united by the feelings we share. Separated though we are from one another in the flesh, we are still a community united by common bonds. Within that community there are people who have different opinions and who have made different choices, as is their right.
There are those that have taken the injections, and those that have not. A recurrent cry from many is that they have, over the years, taken every vaccination and seen to the vaccination of their children as well. Again and again I read about those who simply have questions they want answered – and who feel those answers might not be available for years to come.
Those feelings of community transcend decisions made by adults about what is best for each of them. I receive letters from care workers, nurses, GPs and others in the health industry, and while they have made different choices for themselves, they are united by dismay about what might be about to unfold for children.
Even though we might not be able to see each other, we are companions. Companion is a word with deep roots – all the way down to the oldest languages of all. It means “those with whom we share bread”.
I wish we could all meet somewhere – because then we would see that we are not alone, that in fact we are millions of people standing together. No matter what happens next, we who hold common values – values we hold dear – we are a community. We are companions. A family. I will continue to dream about a day when we might break bread together.