I passed a significant life landmark at the weekend – I had my first coronavirus vaccine. For the first time in almost a year, I feel I can finally see a little light at the end of what has been a very long, dark tunnel.

Regular readers of this column will know that throughout the pandemic, I have always erred on the side of caution in terms of my personal health and wellbeing.

I have been fortunate enough to be able to work from home since before the first lockdown thanks to understanding.

No one other than my wife and myself has been in my house during the entire pandemic. I will admit we did have a few friends visit us in our garden during the summer when the infection rates were really low but we were all very careful to maintain social distancing.

We have also been very fortunate that we’ve been able to get supermarket deliveries and avoided going in shops, and while this may not be a politically correct viewpoint, Amazon’s delivery service has proved absolutely invaluable.

The only other buildings I’ve been in were a Boots pharmacy when I had my flu jab and the vaccination centre for the Covid-19 jab on Sunday. 

While I consider myself fortunate in the great scheme of things, I think it’s also fair to say it’s been tough. I have really missed seeing the family and as welcome as Facetime is, having a virtual visit isn’t quite the same.

I also fully realise that many people have had a much worse pandemic than I have.

My heart goes out to all those who lost loved ones to this terrible disease. Many others are still struggling with the effects of so-called long Covid, and I have nothing but praise for those essential workers who have had no option but to carry on, and for all those parents who have had to home-school their children, often under extremely difficult circumstances.

And I am only too well aware of those who have had to pause treatment for other illnesses, many of them serious, as Covid-19 threatened to swamp the NHS.

But maybe the vaccination programme will give us all a way out in…time.

I listened very, very carefully to the pharmacist who gave me my injection. She was clear that I would have little or no protection from coronavirus for the first couple of weeks but by day 22, I should have a reasonable level of antibodies that would offer me maybe 70 per cent protection from catching the virus and probably 100 per cent of avoiding serious illness, hospitalisation and death.

I’m booked in for my second jab in 11 weeks and a week or two after that, I will be as protected as I’m going to be. 
So for me, personally, I won’t be ‘safe’ for another three months.

And there are millions of people in the ‘at risk’ groups below mine. At the time of writing, the government has promised to vaccinate a further 17.7 million people in groups five to nine – which will include all over-50s – by the end of April.
If that target is achieved – and it is a big if as the number of vaccinations increases because of those getting their second dose – all of those considered most vulnerable should be protected by late summer.

I have been critical of the government’s handling of the pandemic throughout. It’s been late to lock down, too quick to come out of lockdown, lost public confidence over the Dominic Cummings affair. Then we had the shambles of students returning to university after summer, Eat Out to Help Out (otherwise known as Eat Out to Spread the Virus), sending kids back to school for one day, Christmas rules relaxed. The list goes on and on with the result that as of Sunday, we have had 117,166 deaths (the true figure is probably much higher), one of the worst death rates in the world and taken one of the biggest economic hits.

But it does appear that prime minister Boris Johnson has finally learned his lesson and seems much more cautious about using the vaccination programme as an excuse to open things up too quickly – a mistake he has made on more than one occasion with deadly and tragic consequences.

He is, however, coming under considerable pressure from the so-called Covid Recovery Group (CRG) of backbench Tory MPs who, unsurprisingly, are more or less the same MPs who pushed for a hard Brexit.

They say that given the most vulnerable have had their first vaccinations, there’s no excuse for not starting to relax regulations and open up the economy. 

I say tell that to the bereaved families of the more than 117,000 dead. The definition of insanity, they say, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. We have plenty of evidence that opening up too quickly costs lives so all we can do is hope Boris Johnson listens to the scientists this time and stands up to his backbenchers.

It’s time for the prime minister to finally show a little backbone. It’s the least we deserve.