Sunday, 9 December 2012

What would you have done?

There is a shortage of typhoid vaccine being sent to my local surgery. (They assure me that this is a supply problem, and not rationing.)

Typhoid is endemic in many hot countries. It is water borne, and is a major problem around the rice paddies. Prevention, in theory, should be straightforward - drink only bottled water (easy), clean your teeth in bottled water (easy), make sure all your food is washed and cooked in bottled water (impossible, unless you do all your own cooking. How do you do that, if you're moving from place to place?)

Five doses were delivered in November, and another five in December. Many more of us have travel plans and need them. The advice - keep ringing and make an appointment when the vaccine came in.

I didn't worry in November, I had another month to go. But supplies were delayed in early December. What if none come in, I asked. The travel clinics have some, though you'll have to pay, the pharmacist said. Where is my nearest travel clinic? Chippenham. I have no car, I said - Chippenham is three buses away, buses that are not timed to connect with each other - the trip would take a whole day.

Make an appointment, she said. Then phone in the morning to see if it's in. Which I did - my appointment was at 9.50; I rang at 9.15 - and the five doses were there. She thought it unlikely that all five would have gone in thirty-five minutes. So I raced off, was duly jabbed, and am protected.

Which is fine for me. But as the needle went in, I had a different thought. What about everyone else waiting for a vaccination. What are they to do?

I googled typhoid, as you do.

The Foreign Office recommends: typhoid vaccine only if you are in the Far East for six months or so.

The NHS recommends: typhoid vaccine if you are away for a week.

I don't take health risks - as some of you know, I've done with being ill in unruly places. I'll do anything to make sure I don't do it again. And I'm in a position to race to the surgery when the vaccine is in.

Those five doses will go to those of us who can be organised to race to the surgery when they come in. But who is to say we should have them at the expense of a family of five, off to visit Grandma in the Philippines, who cannot gather in time, nor afford private jabs for all of them? Or the Grandma going home to Mumbai to meet a new grandson?

I can see why the surgery opted for the 'first come, first served' rationing option - how else could they do it? But it doesn't sit easily, knowing that others may be forced to take typhoid risks while I can wander around rice paddies with impunity.


  1. I'd have done the same as you and had the same thought afterwards.

  2. You might - and this is just a suggestion mind - have mentioned it to your daughter, who owns a car and would have been more than happy to either drive you herself or lend you said car so you could get to Chippenham. Then you would be guilt free and others could have got the vaccine.

  3. Isn't it wonderful when daughters have sensible solutions! (And thank you Miriam - it's good to know you see it as I do.)

  4. That's what happens when your daughter reads your blog Jo. Really strange they don't have enough vaccines,I don't see why they couldn't have got people to make appointments and kept the vaccine for them instead of having you rush down right away.

  5. Anne - I can see why they had a first come, first served. Otherwise people could make appointments for weeks ahead, fail to turn up, and the vaccine sitting there all that time. And as for daughters - where would we be without them ... where indeed ...

  6. I'd have not had it if I knew for sure that it was otherwise going to the family returning to the Philippines. I would have had it if I'd know that it would go to a rich person who preferred to get it free rather than paying a clinic (that's partly how some rich people get rich, you know) :). By coincidence I just this minute had an email from someone with a new product that uses kidney dialysis techniques to create fresh water. But here's the link. Wonder what you think? Clean water is the answer, really, as far as typhoid is concerned.

  7. Jenny - I agree. Had I known for sure it would go to the family returning to the Philippines, then it would make much more sense for them to have it. Living where I do, it is far more likely to go to a rich person.

    And yes, clean water is the answer to so many problems. And this product looks promising - I shall look into it (though maybe not in time for this trip. I'm at the 'trying to get it all done' stage.

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