Good old social media! It gets a bad press. But once in a while it provides a handy civic service. As I’m scrolling through amusing cat videos and photos of friends making the best of their British staycations, I come across a neighbourhood alert for a walk-in vaccine clinic for 16-17year olds. It’s not the most reliable of advertisements and why they don’t send notification of it through the post is beyond my middle-aged mindset. But, as Grunting Teen hasn’t yet received any official invitation from the NHS, it might be worth investigation. If he’s in favour of getting a jab then it’s best to do it before the school term starts. At least it will avoid him being sent home at the drop of a virus.
I decide to investigate. At first, I’m not sure if it’s fake news or not, since the person posting it has a Disney princess as their profile. There’s also quite an aggressive thread going on between pro- and anti-vaxers. But after some digging, I discover it’s a legitimate pop-up centre. What’s more, it’s in walking distance. Now it’s up to my adolescent to do his own research.
‘I’ve sent you a few articles to read about the pros and cons of the vaccine for people of your age,’ I tell him. ‘So, you can make up your own mind.’
‘What? You want me to read something?’ he says, unimpressed. ‘I’ll just ask my mates if they’re having it.’
‘No. You need to make a reliable, informed decision of your own,’ I insist.
He rolls his eyes and ignores the attachments I’ve sent to his phone, claiming that as the adults in the family have been vaccinated and they are obviously reliably informed, he’ll do the same.
‘Look, you’re going into 6th Form soon,’ I remind him. ‘You’re not going to be spoon-fed anymore. You should be developing your analytical abilities and critical thinking, not just following the crowds.’
At that moment the Nearly-Beloved arrives to undermine my parenting. ‘Vaccines on offer to youngsters. Just round the corner,’ he tells Grunting Teen, tapping his nose like a friendly drug pusher.
So, the next morning I wake him, for an adolescent-unfriendly early start. We are the only ones there apart from one other mum with her tired teenager, yawning their annoyance at being dragged out at the crack of dawn to be saved from a future of long Covid.
This time the roll-out is being hosted in a local Church Hall. It’s a much smaller affair than the mass vaccination centres I’ve been to. But somehow this makes it more accessible, less of a big deal. As usual, the staff are professional and polite, to the point where Grunting Teen looks around in complete confusion when a volunteer announces ‘this gentleman is next on the list’.
Before long, the gentleman in question has waited the required fifteen-minute recovery time and is on his way home. The mistake was in having a mobile with no battery and a leaflet of side effects that, out of boredom, he’s actually read.
‘Mum I’m feeling rather dizzy. I’ve got a headache. And my arm proper hurts,’ he complains. ‘Do you think I’m getting a blood clot? Maybe I shouldn’t have had the jab after all?’
I sigh. This is the boy who catches whatever disease the latest online influencer is promoting. The only thing he’s suffering from is hypochondria. The antidote is to plug in his phone.
As he scrolls through messages from his mates who are about to get Pfizered too, his symptoms magically disappear. In fact, he’s looking positively perky.
‘Ha! I beat them all to it!’ he tells me.
I look confused. ‘How do you know?’ I ask.
‘Reliable information, mum,’ he replies, showing me a photo of the massive queue now snaking its way outside the centre.