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.