This is one woman's experience of the Covid-19 vaccination programme so far. She happens to be my mother, but many elderly people will be going through the same emotions...

IN her 90th year, my mum had been counting down the days, like an excited child who can’t wait for Christmas morning.

Tuesday, December 29, 3pm. The date and time were fixed firmly in her mind, ringed on her calendar, and written in capitals on a piece of paper alongside the Christmas cards on her mantlepiece.

That was when she would have her first Covid-19 vaccination, and it was the only present she wanted.

Perhaps she was a little anxious when the time came, and I drove her to Low Grange Health Village, near Middlesbrough, but her attitude throughout the pandemic has been underpinned by stoicism so typical of her generation.

“Hitler didn’t get me, so this won’t,” she declared at the start of the first lockdown. And, nine months later, her verdict as we drove home after she’d received her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine was: “There’s nowt to it.”

It had been well managed by the NHS staff: she was met at the door, reassured about the process, and guided every step of the way.

A serious business, but there was humour too. One of the questions the nurse asked her before she had the jab was: “Is there any chance you’re pregnant?”

“I should be so lucky!” was my mum’s reply.

There was also great camaraderie among the recipients as they waited for their jabs, and when they returned to the waiting room afterwards for 15-minutes, to make sure there were no adverse reactions.

As one old man left after being given the all-clear, he performed a little jig, waved, and shouted: “All the best everyone!”

In my mum’s case, she didn’t even realise she’d had the jab. “I never felt a thing – it was all brilliant,” she said.

She particularly enjoyed the fact that, despite wearing a mask, a few people in the queue, and one of the nurses, recognised her from her decades of being the local postlady.

Back home, she toasted her first jab with a glass of cherry brandy, and looked forward to her second vaccination on January 19.

“I can’t wait,” she said, looking at the card she’d been given, confirming her first vaccination, and reminding her that a second was due.

Amid the doom and gloom, it felt like a good day: proof that the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter.

I haven’t hugged my mum since March, so it came as a huge relief to know that she was halfway there, along with a million others, who’d been vaccinated in the first wave.

To cap it all, she was still giggling hours later at the unexpected bonus of knowing that she isn’t pregnant…

THAT joy turned to confusion the following day when the Government suddenly changed course.

The morning headlines had come as a further cause for celebration because the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine had been approved for use in the UK. Just as effective as the Pfizer vaccine, but easier to store and transport, so even better news.

However, that announcement was followed by the Government declaring that the gap between the first and second jabs of the vaccine would no longer be the promised three weeks, but three months. The rationale was that it would enable more people to receive some protection from the first jab.

This has led to uncertainty and frustration, not just in my family, but in households across the country. The Doctors’ Association UK – “the voice of frontline doctors” – wrote to Health Secretary Matt Hancock expressing concerns about the change in policy, pointing out that:

• Protection provided by the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine is considerably lower at 52.4% compared to 95% if two doses are given three weeks apart.

• It is, therefore, not “following the science” because it is an untested strategy.

• Patients in the first wave of vaccinations had given their consent on the basis that they would have two jabs three weeks apart.

• It will significantly add to the workload of frontline NHS staff to have to cancel and rearrange appointments for vulnerable patients expecting their second dose.

“Mixed messages and lack of evidence will inevitably lead to undermining the public trust in the vaccine, and could negatively impact on uptake,” the association has warned Mr Hancock.

My mum would be the last person to want to jump the queue but, like so many others, she’s been left confused and disappointed. Her hopes were raised, she saw a clear path ahead, and now she doesn’t. Having been overjoyed to go up the ladder, she’s slipped back down the snake.

The mixed messages continue. Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, has defended the change of strategy, saying: “It is the way we save lives.”

At the same time, Dr Richard Vautrey, chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, insists the move is misguided, adding: “The existing commitment made to these patients by the NHS and local clinicians should be respected.”

Perhaps the Government’s gamble – for that’s what it is – will turn out to be for the greater good. I sincerely hope so.

But when frontline doctors are passionately questioning the latest strategy, it’s hard to have any confidence.

“I just don’t understand it – I’ve given up trying to work it out,” said my mum, who still hasn’t had official notification of whether to turn up for the second jab on January 19.

It’s upsetting enough for an 89-year-old woman to be in limbo, but what’s much more disturbing is that the doctors don’t appear to understand it either.

FROM Covid-19 to Brexit, and a Tweet from Kelvin MacKenzie, ex-editor of The Sun.

“The Establishment was against it. Parliament was against it and at least two Tory Prime Ministers were against it. And yet we won. An astonishing victory. Now for a referendum on the death penalty. There would be same barriers. Stay strong. Murdering scum should not live.”

Democracy is precious – but it can also be dangerous. After all, it led to the people of Hartlepool electing a man in a monkey costume as their Mayor, and Donald Trump becoming American President.

In the light of Mr MacKenzie’s call for a referendum on the death penalty, let’s also not forget that, in 1966, The Northern Echo’s editor, Sir Harold Evans, below, successfully campaigned to posthumously pardon Timothy Evans. An innocent man, he’d been hanged after being wrongly convicted of murdering his wife and child.

No doubt, there were those who called Timothy Evans “murdering scum” back then.

The Northern Echo:

LAST April, in the early days of lockdown, I drove to Stanley to write about PACT House, a lifeline community hub and foodbank.

While I was there, I saw how Darren McMahon, below, heroically binds his community together, and I drove home thinking: “That man deserves a medal.”

Last week, he was awarded the MBE, and I can’t think of anyone more deserving.

The Northern Echo:

THE Northern Echo had called for Dominic Cummings, below, to be honoured for services to tourism, after putting Barnard Castle on the map.

Sadly, it fell on deaf ears. He should surely have got the MBE – My Blurry Eyesight.

The Northern Echo: