I decided to run an experiment with a wheelchair workout for the purposes of this column, not without a certain amount of trepidation.
I hadn’t been able to go out for what, for me, is the equivalent of a run since the previous Saturday morning, after which I received my second dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, specifically the AstraZeneca/Oxford version.
The result of that was a vicious headache, lack of appetite, queasiness, lassitude, joint pain. In other words, a good chunk of the listed side effects, which stayed with me for far longer than anyone else I’ve spoken to.
The second of those is listed by Public Health England as a 100-1 shot, less than that in fact, and I’m still not quite over it.
You can count yourself very unlucky if you get a similar response.
Suffice it to say I came through the workout just fine. The readings from my Fitbit were on point in terms of heart rate and calories burnt. The fact that I’m still not eating much? At this point I’m starting to think of that last thing as a beneficial side effect. I could do with losing a few pounds.
The point of the experiment was to compare the result to what happened to me after an encounter with Covid-19, a repeat of which the vaccine will hopefully protect against.
It took well over two months to get to the same point; to produce the same readings on the device.
I hadn’t been as sick since getting run over by a truck. I found breathing uncomfortable for several weeks, didn’t want to eat for the entire time either. It was six weeks before I tentatively started to exercise again, at which point a gentle push around the park felt like trying to run one of those extreme marathons they stage at high altitude, the ones in places where you need the lungs of a yak just to be able to walk comfortably let alone run 26 miles.
Given that you can maybe understand why, the national, in fact the international, conversation about vaccines seems to be backwards to me. More than 150,000 Britons have had Covid-19 listed on their death certificate. Numbers can be hard to visualise, but it’s roughly equivalent to taking out the entire population of the aforementioned Oxford per the last census. That would be every man, woman and child living in that venerable city.
What’s been less publicised is that many more are still living with the debilitating effects of long Covid, which can muck up people’s lives for months on end.
While the elderly are clearly the worst affected, younger people are far from immune from the depredations of the virus as is becoming increasingly clear.
Today is the final day of the annual NFL draft, which defensive end Justin Foster will never be a part of having left Clemson, the highly-ranked college team he played for, due to complications from Covid combined with his asthma.
At the end of last year Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce said that some of what happened during the club's outbreak last year had “really shocked” him. For a couple of his players, young, fit, athletes remember, recovery was a lengthy endeavour. It went into extra time and beyond.
“Michigan’s Covid wards are filling up with younger patients,” said the New York Times in a recent report from the state. It detailed how hospitals have been admitting around twice as many coronavirus patients in their 30s and 40s as they were during the peak in the autumn.
One of the quotes, from a nurse working in the hot zone, was chilling: “Every time we get a call or every time we hear that there’s another 40-year-old that we don’t have a circuit for — it’s just like, you know, we can’t save them all.”
Set against that, the extraordinarily rare instances of blood clots that have been linked to the Astra shot - the roll out of Johnson & Johnson’s product was paused in the US as a result of similar concerns - pale by comparison. My unpleasant start to the week, necessitating a couple of days off sick, is meanwhile no more important than a winter cold.
One thing that I think might help to overcome the concerns people have over undergoing something like what I went through is if employers showed a willingness to stand behind their staff, as mine did.
A prod or two from the government, which hasn’t exactly excelled itself when it comes to the workers rights it promised to “protect and enhance”, wouldn’t hurt.
The fact that we’re still talking about Britain’s miserable rate of statutory sick pay does rather beggar belief.
Nonetheless, take it from me, if it gets to September and I’m among those offered a booster, and it turns out to be an Astra booster, my response will be “how long’s the queue and where do I join?” even if it does mean a few unpleasant days.
My side effects are, anyway, caused by the immune system cranking itself up. It’s the treatment working. So they are, in a way, reassuring.