JENNI MURRAY: The real reason my neighbours aren't having the vaccine

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Atext on Saturday evening from my dear friends and neighbours, Peter and Jane, informing me that Peter, 80, had received his invitation from the NHS to book an appointment for his Covid vaccine. Great!

They dutifully went on to the NHS online booking page to find the hub nearest to their North London home, only to discover this was the ExCel centre in East London, ten miles away. Other options included: Epsom Downs Racecourse in Surrey, 19 miles away; Robertson House in Stevenage, 21 miles away; and Millennium Point in Birmingham, 95 miles away. Not so great!

Peter is desperate to have the jab. His wife, Jane, is 76 and pretty immobile since she began to suffer excruciating pain in her knee a year ago. She's on the waiting list for a knee replacement, but goodness knows when that will happen.

She also had a recent fall down the stairs at home. They are now completely dependent on Peter.

Jenni Murray (pictured) explores how her neighbours have been unable to get the vaccine due to their distance from vaccination hubs

He does the shopping on foot, but doesn't drive. Jane was the driver, but gave up their car when her knee pain became unbearable.

So, what were they going to do about the jab? 'Not going to any of them,' was the somewhat terse response to my question.

On Monday, another text, 'Peter just rang our GP surgery; they have not been nominated to administer the vaccine.'


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How baffling. It's a substantial health centre. A call to the surgery revealed no information as to why they haven't been designated as a vaccination centre, although we've all had our flu jabs there.

Peter tells me he was advised to look again at the website and, maybe, go to Edgware or the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead. The Royal Free told him he would need a referral from his GP.

That would not be available, he was told, by the receptionist at the surgery. He would have to call at 8am or 2pm to book a telephone appointment with his own GP. The plot thickened.

She asks why there is so little planning in place to help the elderly and pleaded to bring in the Army, St John Ambulance, the GPs and the chemists to make it easier (stock image)

So, why didn't I drive him? He wasn't happy to share the car with me. We're keeping ourselves apart, according to the rules. Our Scrabble games are no longer happening as we follow the guidance.

Public transport? A nightmare journey and probably not safe. How about a taxi? I checked the cost of a round trip to East London; £60. On a pension? Come on! And how Covid-secure is a cab for an elderly man?

When he saw the pictures of fellow pensioners navigating the ramps at the ExCel centre, Peter became even more frustrated.

At ExCel, they were queuing in the freezing cold, some leaning on sticks, others waiting half an hour for someone to bring a wheelchair to help them up the ramps.

As Peter says: 'It feels like a conspiracy to bump us off. If Covid doesn't get us, hypothermia will.'

I, at the age of 70, am in the fourth group to be offered the vaccine. No invitation yet, but it's expected to come in early February apparently. Some chance!

My neighbours are not Covid anti-vaxxers or deniers. Peter wants to have the vaccine. So why is so little planning in place to help the elderly who are unable to get to these giant vaccination hubs?

They trust the NHS to care for them from cradle to grave. Hospital staff are working themselves to the bone, but the Government has made a promise of vaccination with no thought for the frailty of the human beings to whom they have given such a guarantee.

Please, make it easier. Bring in the Army, St John Ambulance, the GPs, the chemists. Open up some of the office buildings that are empty as workers stay at home.

It can't be that hard to ensure vaccination centres are accessible. This virus will beat us if we can't show we are smarter and better at organisation than it is.


I'm not tickled pink by Vogue's new cover

As we come closer than ever to the possibility of a female president of the United States (Joe Biden is 78, after all), it's great to see the Vice President-Elect, Kamala Harris, 56, on the cover of February's Vogue.

In the photograph, she's relaxed in the kind of black jacket and trousers any of us might wear — not costly haute couture — and wearing Converse trainers. (That should put those stiletto-heeled Manolos out of the next Sex And The City, thank goodness.)

But did she have to be set against a silky pink backdrop? Let's not emphasise she's a girl, just a woman who's good at her job.

Jenni said it was great to see the Vice President-Elect, Kamala Harris, 56, on the cover of February's Vogue (above)


A message from the Radio 4 comedian, Jon Holmes, on Friday, January 1. 'Dry January starts Monday, right?' 'Right,' I replied. I was wrong. 

It's now Thursday, January 14. As I nurse my vodka and low-calorie Fever-Tree Tonic with lemon, all I can say is 'Cheers!' 


May they love Woman's Hour as much as me

For 33 years I presented Woman's Hour on Radio 4. I was there for four days a week for 20 of those years and three days for the rest.

I cut back after I recovered from breast cancer in 2007 and chose to quit in October last year after my 70th birthday.

It's a little strange to hear someone else welcoming listeners to the programme at two minutes past ten, but the presenter Emma Barnett is now in her second week and she'll soon be joined by the Countryfile presenter and Strictly Come Dancing supremo, Anita Rani.

I wish them luck and hope they love and nurture the programme, the Woman's Hour audience and their team of brilliant producers as much as I did. It's the best broadcasting job in the world.


Saved from pigging on Percy

I'm very disappointed that Percy Pig has fallen victim to Brexit red tape and tariffs.

They are made in Germany, then sent to M&S in the UK who export them back to stores in Europe.

A rise in price seems inevitable, but will a few extra pennies protect me from my secret vice? I try to avoid sugar, but Percy Pig has been irresistible, with a bag sneaking its way in with my fruit and veg. No more!

Percy Pigs (pictured), that are made in Germany before being sent to M&S in the UK who export them back to stores in Europe, have fallen victim to Brexit red tape and tariffs


I won't keep mum about home births 

What a shame to hear some health trusts are suspending home births. As the pandemic rages, there are fears ambulances may not be free to carry a labouring woman to hospital if she's in difficulty. It's a shame because it's been the only way recently to guarantee that a father can be present at the birth.

I had my first child in hospital, advised it would be safer for a 'geriatric' mother (I was 33). The second time, at 37, I rehearsed an impressive argument about the benefits of home delivery for the hospital consultant, and was delighted when he said, 'OK!'

Labour began at 6pm in M&S. At 9.30pm, I felt the head crown while I was in the bath. By 10pm I was nursing my second son surrounded by the family I love. It was calm, quiet and wonderful.

The second time, at 37, (pictured) Jenni rehearsed an impressive argument about the benefits of home delivery for the hospital consultant