Big Issue North vendor vaccine

Heaton Park’s Gordon relieved to get the jab

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A seventy-year-old man has become the first Big Issue North vendor to have had the Covid vaccine.

Gordon, who normally sells the magazine outside Sainsbury’s in Heaton Park, Manchester, was called in to have his first jab in January and again earlier this month to have a second dose.

“I know loads of people are still waiting to have the first injection so I’m very lucky,” he said. “I wasn’t worried about getting it. I never even felt the needle to go in.”

He reports the only side-effect as a sore arm for a couple of days after each injection.

Gordon, who is originally from Darlington and who suffers from COPD, a lung condition that makes him extremely vulnerable to the disease, has been selling on his Heaton Park pitch for 11 years now. He began selling the magazine after losing a job at an old people’s home and started up the pitch himself, convincing the store manager to let him sell outside. Now, he said, he is “like a member of staff there. I look after the shoppers’ dogs while they go inside, that kind of thing. I miss the chatter with my regular customers. They have become good friends.”

Gordon has kept in touch with the store manager during lockdown. “He phones me up sometimes and he says all my customers are asking after me and want to know how I am, which is good,” he said.  “They are all waiting for me to come back.”

Since Big Issue North vendors were taken off the streets for a third time in January, Gordon has been getting some support from the Big Issue North office in the way of a hardship payment and help accessing food parcels. But like many vendors he is struggling to make ends meet as he usually relies on weekly sales of the magazine to top up his pension, which covers everything from rent to bills and food.

“I’ve just got coppers left in my pocket,” he said.

But it is not just the money that Gordon is missing. “Selling the magazine keeps my mind occupied as well, but during this lockdown, when I’ve been sat on my own in the house all the time, I’m bored out of my mind,” he said. “I’m using up loads of electric and everything. And I’ve put some bloody weight on!”

The vaccine is the one ray of hope for Gordon, who is desperate to get back to work as soon as possible. “They reckon things aren’t going to change much until March,” he said. “But at least the death rate is going down and the infection rate is going down, and numbers of people who have had the vaccine is going up, so that’s something.”

What would Gordon say to someone who was hesitant about having the vaccine?

“I’d say there’s nothing to it,” he said. “I’ve had people asking me about it who haven’t had it yet and I tell them there’s nothing to worry about. It’s really important that people get it. Better to be safe than sorry.”

And he said, the quicker we can get out of this lockdown, the better. “I’m sick of this lockdown. I’m bored of it. I just can’t wait to get back selling the magazine again.”

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