Dr MARTIN SCURR: It would be callous to make elderly wait for vaccine

It would be so callous to make the elderly who are most at risk from coronavirus  wait for vaccination, argues Dr MARTIN SCURR

Dr Martin Scurr (pictured) said: ‘The vaccine debate cannot be reduced to plotting numbers on a graph. It is actually about our common humanity’

England has now entered a third national lockdown, and as the economic consequences of the Covid pandemic grow ever more serious, a pernicious argument is gaining ground.

On the face of it, its proponents are simply questioning whether the vaccination drive now under way across the country should be designed to prevent mortality – or to arrest the wider transmission of the disease.

But it has a sinister subtext: one that pitches the value of the young and of society’s wealth creators against the ‘unproductive’ elderly and physically and mentally vulnerable.

Put bluntly, there are those who believe – even if they are coy about saying so – that there is no point in vaccinating the elderly as they bide their time in God’s waiting room, blocking hospital beds and clogging up our social care system.

Given that they are all going to die soon anyway, say sceptics, why waste scarce resources delaying the inevitable when, by giving the vaccine to people of working age, we can get more of us back to the office, reopen pubs and restaurants, and restore our morale with visits to gyms, hairdressers, beauty salons and eventually theatres and cinemas.

In short, get life back to normal for those capable of enjoying it to the full as fast as we can.

Those who have challenged the decision to make care homes a priority in the vaccination rollout are effectively arguing that the elderly can be kept ‘safe’ in their glorious isolation, albeit unable to hug their grandchildren or see them face to face. If you pause just for one moment to reflect on such a thesis, it quickly becomes obvious how disreputable it is.

Indeed, it demolishes the heroic human impulses behind our fightback against this wretched virus.

What is medicine for, if is not to reduce mortality in the time of a global pandemic?

Why have scientists around the globe mounted this monumental effort to find two viable vaccines in implausibly short order if it is not to save life? For the elderly, time is precious, precisely because it is inevitably compressed towards the end. And the truth is that you have to vaccinate thirty 60-year-olds to achieve the same outcome in terms of death rates of vaccinating one 90-year-old, as Covid is so much more deadly among the older age group.

Already we have inflicted real cruelties on our elderly, not least by inadvertently spreading the virus through care homes nationwide back in the spring in our eagerness to get them out of hospital wards to create space for Covid sufferers.

Dr Martin Scurr said: ‘For the elderly, time is precious, precisely because it is inevitably compressed towards the end.’ Pictured: Boris Johnson visiting the Chase Farm Hospital on January 4 to view the vaccination programme

I am extremely alive to the dangers of Covid because I’m 71, but I worry much more about my mother who would probably not survive infection.

At the age of 91, she still lives in her own home, potters in her garden and is an avid reader. She is convinced she has another ten good years in her, and I would not presume to disagree.

I don’t see how we as a society can argue people like my mother should be left to their own devices while ‘wealth generators’ launch the – admittedly much-needed – economic fightback.

The vaccine debate cannot be reduced to plotting numbers on a graph. It is actually about our common humanity.

Dr Scurr is a retired GP and Mail columnist 

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