#Logistics in the time of COVID

Vaccination in the UK: The Ephemeral State

Coming after a catastrophic 2020, the UK's greatest logistical triumph in a generation will leave shockingly little trace that it ever happened.
Andrew Naughtie
Photograph by Andrew Naughtie

I received my first dose of the Pfizer shot in London in February. The only artefact I have of my own vaccination is a small wallet-sized card stamped with the batch number of the shot I had, with the date I received it scrawled in ballpoint pen. There’s an online electronic record I can look at, but there’s no other tangible evidence I’ve been vaccinated at all.

Just as ephemeral was the process of actually getting the shot. The appointment was made in an ad-hoc phonecall, and I was sent at short notice to a school on a suburban street. Everyone staffing it was wearing hi-viz yellow and worked off tablets. The school itself had been relabelled with a plastic sign and a few sheets of letter-sized paper, with floor-standing noticeboards used as hoardings to create a one-way system.

The actual vaccination took less than a minute; I waited in a classroom for 15 minutes to watch for an adverse reaction, then walked out with just a wave to someone else in a fluorescent vest. And that was it.

Coming after a catastrophic 2020, this vaccination programme is the greatest logistical triumph the British state has achieved in my adult lifetime. And yet, there is no visual record that this ever happened, nothing material that will outlast it. Every piece of “infrastructure” at the site I went to was either disposable or part of a school that’ll soon take the building back. In the end, the vaccine programme is entirely ephemeral, “existing” only on flimsy pieces of card that many people who receive them will probably misplace.

Photograph by Andrew Naughtie


Andrew Naughtie is a U.S. politics reporter and newsletter author with the Independent.