‘It’s just frustrating’: the UK couples hit by vaccine disparity

The vaccine rollout in the UK may be regarded by many as a huge success, but for some couples it has become a minefield. From deciding whether or not to eat inside, to one partner gritting their teeth while the other entertains friends – the latest phase of the pandemic has left couples struggling to reach a compromise.

Two people who have received a different level of vaccine protection than their partners explain how vaccine disparity is threatening harmony at home.

Arwen, 38, lives with her partner of four years in Forest Gate.

“Although we went online at the same time, we both had different versions of the website when we booked, which was strange from the outset. We ended up booking two appointments for our first jabs at different hubs at Guy’s hospital in London, but when I rescheduled a short while later, we ended up getting different vaccines: she got Pfizer, I got Moderna.

“Now my partner is fully vaccinated and I’m at my wit’s end. It turned out to be really difficult to get an appointment for a second Moderna shot. I’d be happy to mix them and would go and get the Pfizer today but was told by 119 that it must be the same as the first dose in this instance.

“Now we are in a really strange predicament. I have no desire to socialise and the date for my second vaccine isn’t until the end of August. But people my partner is bringing back to our house, who are double vaccinated, are totally complacent about socialising. I feel guilty for not going out with her. Everything has become so dramatic, and our vaccine status has become something we argue about. It’s a whole new thing to navigate, and it’s potentially break-up inducing.”

Arwen says the discrepancy in immunisation between herself and her partner has magnified their personal differences.

“She is so excited about being back in a social world, and I don’t really see it this way and just want to get through the pandemic. So many couples broke up during lockdown and we made it this far. But this whole thing has highlighted that we’re more different than we thought we were. It’s driving a wedge between us.”

Caroline, 29, a digital manager from London, got her second vaccine in early June.

“I have Addison’s disease, a rare autoimmune condition, so I got my jabs early. My husband, Tom, is still waiting for his, although I’m younger, and has got another month to go until we’re both fully vaccinated, plus another two weeks until he’s fully protected after that. It’s still a long way to go.

“My health condition didn’t affect my life at all before Covid, and Tom has been more cautious and careful than me since the start of the pandemic. I was the one pushing for pub garden trips and popping to the shops, while he’s been ridiculously protective over me.

“On a couple of occasions, before I was vaccinated, he even reprimanded people in the street for walking too close to me. I expected things to change once I was double-dosed. I was looking forward to finally being able to travel around London on public transport again, seeing more of my friends, perhaps even going wild and visiting the gym.

Tom is in great health and in his early thirties, so the risk to him should be low. tuttavia, he doesn’t feel comfortable venturing out until he’s also double-vaccinated, due to the risk that he could still transmit the virus more easily to me.”

Caroline says she feels this disparity of protection between the two of them is putting a lot of pressure on the relationship.

“It’s just frustrating. There’s this ‘freedom day’ hype, but for us as a couple it doesn’t feel this way. I’ve been going out more than he has, but he gets really, really worried about me. I think apart from a number of conversations we’ve had about this topic, we’re massively realising that I’m more adventurous generally and this difference between us has come out a lot.

“But most of all, it’s been sad not to be able to share the same emotional journey – including the elation of being double-vaccinated – at the same time.”

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