The time we were all looking forward to is here, the return to some sort of normality – but how are you finding it? As a GP I see over a hundred patients every week and I therefore get insights into the lives and experiences of people from all age groups and backgrounds, and it never fails to fascinate me how different we all are.

Last week I took a call from an elderly patient who has been shielding for 18 months due to complex health problems and being in a high-risk category. They did not see themselves as “vulnerable” prior to the pandemic but continued public health messaging has now left them feeling extremely vulnerable as they try to find their new place in a society still threatened by COVID. They called because they felt anxious.

“I want to see my grandchildren and friends but I am worried.”

I have spoken to several such patients, and I share this because if you find yourself feeling this way too, I hope it brings some comfort that you are not alone. What did I tell this person then to help them? I reminded them of the benefits of the vaccine which they had received both doses of. Already they were in a much better position than where they were 18 months ago.

I applauded them for remaining cautious and encouraged this to continue but also reassured them that we would not have allowed easing of restrictions if it wasn’t deemed safe to do so. Whilst we are seeing significant cases, thanks to the vaccination programme, we are seeing less serious complications and fewer hospitalisations.

I also counselled them to take things at their own pace and for us all to remember that a lot has happened to us over the last 18 months. There will be some internal reprogramming whilst we acclimatise to our newfound freedom.

That same day however, I saw a patient who admitted they were against getting the vaccine because they did not believe in the pandemic and that if they got covid, they would rather take their chances than accept the jab. As a doctor on the ground, who has first-hand seen the devastation and fallout from this pandemic, I always have to remind myself to take a step back and explore the reasons behind this thought process.

Sadly, misinformation has been the biggest problem we have faced which has caused immense harm to lives and so any opportunity to explore, try to resolve damage and educate with hard science and evidence, should be welcomed. I investigated the reasons and found they had fallen victim to myths about the vaccine from WhatsApp and Facebook chats. The vaccines being developed in such a short space of time is due to advances in science where we have technology readily available to create medications quickly. They are put through rigorous testing and trials before being approved and no, there is no microchips or tracking devices within the vaccine. They were concerned about fertility and I was able to pull up studies and the evidence to prove that the vaccines were not shown to impact fertility and there are no safety concerns for pregnant women, babies or if breastfeeding. There is complete transparency over ingredients used in the manufacturing and after seeing all this, a lot of which I printed off for them too, they felt much better.

I was delighted then this week to receive a call that they had reviewed everything and that morning had attended for their first vaccine dose. My job is to give the facts and provided someone has done their research and made an informed choice, I am happy.

The return back to school has prompted several calls from worried parents this week as their children have been anxious or nervous and also concerns about the vaccines for the older children. As GPs, we are able to help and so I have had many consultations reviewing the mental health concerns young people are having as they navigate exam results,

restrictions, testing at school and what next year may look like. There has been much chaos to the lives of young people over the last year and it will take some time to settle down. For any parents in this situation, ensure you are making time to listen, monitor and support as best you can remembering you can speak to the school teacher if you are worried or your doctor.

Many people have slotted right back into the groove of everyday life and that is lovely to see as well. I am somewhere in the middle. I have personally found the transition from lockdown to “normality” a bit overwhelming. I have 2 young kids and the push and pull of expectations at times is a bit much, especially after a period of slowing it all down for so long. I am taking my time and not feeling sorry for saying no if I don’t feel up to the big meetups. We all need to do what feels right for us and there is no right or wrong way of doing this. Whilst we are in a strong position in Scotland, we are still in the grey zone so it is important to just take it one day at a time.