The Docs on Bloom Street, with 8,000 registered patients, will next year celebrate 40 years of providing GP services to city centre residents. Its friendly welcoming style is well known, so it was a great uplift to receive their text on the morning of Monday 18th January: ‘Dear Miss Davies, you’re invited to book your 1st COVID vaccination.’ I’d heard from some of the city centre residents aged 80+ about their recent vaccinations; now we were moving onto 70+, a group I keep forgetting I’ve joined.

I was surprised at how much of a lift the text brought: a personal relief of course, but also evidence we are moving in the right direction, an early step-up on the steep path to vaccinating all willing adults and eventually returning to our families, our friends and our activities.

The booking process was easier than ordering a pizza. Within less than 5 minutes, I’d checked my diary and had an appointment two days later at The Vallance Centre in Ardwick, not far from the university. The whole vaccination process was a model of the sort of efficiency you want from a medical service, wrapped around with an unfussy level of care and communication, with healthcare professionals supported by a volunteer team in the best Manchester volunteer tradition.

Pain? Minimal, and worth it.

We’re often told by people who’ve spent only a brief time in Manchester that the place – the people really – has a talent for friendliness, helpfulness and a willingness to focus on the positives. That talent was on view on Wednesday. Even my taxi driver seemed jubilant as he congratulated me on being on the vaccination list.

That talent has been on view throughout the pandemic. As city centre residents and Deansgate Councillors, Marcus, William and I are hearing everywhere of residents’ active work in supporting their neighbours, building stronger bonds of neighbourliness and breaking down the barriers that apartment living can feed. Shopping and collecting prescriptions for neighbours, locating the owners of stray pets and wrongly delivered parcels, and making sure that those shielding have practical support and opportunities for distanced conversation have all become the norm and should have a lasting effect on the way city centre residents relate to one another. In a wider sphere, the growth of groups like Castlefield Litter Pickers has had a fabulous impact on pride in the area, and is expected to continue.

The positives are but a small drop in a dark period, but a drop we can hold onto and develop.

The vaccination programme seems to be operating well in Manchester. Providing supplies hold up Manchester can cope. The system is well organised locally and shows what can be achieved when we are allocated the resources and allowed to use our local system, knowledge and community spirit to get on with the task.

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