At Dillington House in Ilminster at 1410 yesterday, I received my Covid vaccination. The whole process took a matter of minutes and I did not feel the needle that gave me the Pfizer vaccine. A sticker was stuck to my jacket with 1410 in bold black figures. I was required to sit in a room for fifteen minutes to ensure I had no adverse reaction. At 1425, the woman supervising the room said I could leave. Five minutes later I was back on the road.
Standing in the queue to go into the house, I remembered the TB vaccination programme in school days.
It was 1973, the second year at secondary school and we queued outside a classroom waiting our turn to receive the Sterneedle test. It was a spring-loaded instrument with six needles arranged in a circle that was inserted into the inside of each person’s forearm. We joked and laughed as we each emerged from the room with a neat set of six holes in our skin. There was a nervousness. Most families knew someone who had suffered TB, I had an aunt in London who had spent time in a sanatorium.
The following week, the test was assessed. Everyone else had a negative result, they would go on to receive the BCG vaccination. I tested positive.
Letters came to my home. There was concern that I had suffered tuberculosis. A letter came summoning me for an X-ray examination in Wells. In memory, the X-ray was undertaken in a big blue van. Perhaps that is a piece of misremembering, perhaps it is true. The National Health Service had a Mass Miniature Radiography programme using vans to go out to communities to screen people for TB.
I remember standing against the X-ray machine, worried that I would get the wrong result for a second time. No-one would talk openly about what might happen if it was discovered that I had tuberculosis, there seemed to be a veiled suggestion of hospitals and long-term treatments. The word “sanatorium” was a worrying one, did people still get sent to them?
The X-ray proved to be negative, the threat of being sent away receded. The atypical response to the test was not explained. The conclusion proposed was that I had a natural immunity to TB. The source of the immunity was never fully explained. A suggestion was made that drinking unpasteurised milk on the farm as a child had led to an exposure to bovine TB, but it was never confirmed. Perhaps it was possible to be simply immune to an illness.
I hope my reaction to the Covid vaccination is not similarly atypical.