The course of vaccination never did run smooth, especially for poor old AstraZeneca. EU leaders alternated between questioning its effectiveness, blocking exports of it, accusing greedy Britain of hoarding the vaccine they so despised, while millions of vials lay unused in warehouses across the Continent.
On Wednesday came a staggering last-ditch plot twist. First, the European Medicines Agency gave a press conference recommending the vaccine for all age groups. Then just minutes later, it was the turn of UK regulators to advise against the vaccine, but only for the under-30s, for whom the risks of Covid were minuscule enough not to outweigh the – still minuscule – risk of rare blood clots.
But how to deliver this message without spooking the older generations? The paranoid style, once entrenched, is difficult to abandon, especially for a comms machine ever-so-slightly given to apocalyptic adverts and graphs of doom to cower the population into submission. So this required the subtlety of keyhole surgery, not the usual sledgehammer/nut treatment.
Into this rhetorical quagmire sailed deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, armed with his trademark homespun metaphors (last time it was trains, on Wednesday ships). And as it turned out, he was the perfect navigator.
The Captain wanted as many passengers as possible to board the good ship vaccine – and had assembled a crack crew to reassure them of a safe crossing. We heard again from Professor June Raine, the eminent head of the medicines regulator, and the reassuringly-titled Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed, chair of the committee on human medicines.
But baby-faced cabin boy Professor Wei Shem Lim – sorry, chair of the vaccination joint committee – gave the real star-turn. Defying gel and gravity, a tuft of hair sprang up, Tintin-like at one end of his head, but even this proved a momentary distraction from the remorseless, ship-steadying logic.