During the first lockdown, Janade – 28, from north London – didn’t leave her house for 127 days.
She lives with an underlying condition known as relapsing-remitting MS, meaning her MS symptoms – the most common include fatigue, vision problems, numbness and tingling, muscle spasms, stiffness and weakness, mobility problems and pain – come and go. Her condition is one that puts her in priority group 6 for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Initially, she explains, she was against the idea of the COVID-19 vaccine, having believed common misconceptions such as that it was created too quickly to be safe, being concerned about side effects, or believing that it may harm her fertility.
"I sat and thought about this before I booked my vaccine and two weeks went by, I had to go to the hospital and onto some medication and I thought – I can’t sit and feel sorry for myself, and think about the what-ifs. We all take different medications, and do we really know what’s in them? So, for argument’s sake and to protect myself, I booked the vaccine, and I am pleased that I have."
The anti-vaccination beliefs that Janade held are common but are all refutable with a significant body of evidence both showing the efficacy and safety of these jabs.
To protect myself, I booked the vaccine, and I am pleased that I have.
Although the vaccine was made at a speed never seen before, it has been approved for use by the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) after an intricate regulatory process, which was sped up through the pre-formed bank of volunteers, the prioritisation of the formulation and approval of the vaccine by the National Institute for Health Research, and government funding.
Furthermore, there is no evidence that the vaccine affects fertility, and Dr Edward Morris, president at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, has said: "We want to reassure women that there is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 vaccines will affect fertility. Claims of any effect of COVID-19 vaccination on fertility are speculative and not supported by any data."
Having fallen into a trap of believing these myths, a conversation with Janade’s father is what changed her mind.
"He pointed out to me that a vaccine of any sort is there to protect people and their health. He said to me, 'You’re not well, it will protect you and make you feel safer,' and he reassured me there was no evidence it affected fertility," she tells Refinery29.
Now, Janade has had her vaccine and is urging everyone – especially young people with underlying health conditions – to get theirs once they are invited.
"Now I've had the vaccine, I feel like everyone should get it – it's like a badge of honour – I feel safe now, even though I know it’s not 100% and there are no guarantees I won’t catch the virus, it gives me a feeling of comfort."
"It is, in my eyes, extremely vital and crucial that people with underlying health conditions who are vulnerable, like me, where I have been relapsing for a year, don’t fight the vaccine and wait to get ill. It can be avoided so easily, and don’t wait too long as it can slow down the rollout to get other people vaccinated."
I want to be able to go and enjoy life and experience different things.
As a route back to normality becomes a little clearer, Janade tells Refinery29 what she’s looking forward to doing, like going for evening drinks with a friend, returning to her job in a secondary school and even conversing without a mask on.
"But the thing I am most looking forward to post-lockdown is going back to Iceland," she explains. "I went there two years ago and did some amazing things with my sister. I never appreciated landscape and snow and for the first time I experienced an earthquake, and I was fascinated by this. I mean I wouldn’t want to be in an earthquake every day but it was so surreal. We had some great experiences including hiking a glacier."
"When I think back to this and where we are now, I realise how much I want to be able to go and enjoy life and experience different things."