The injection to cause all ills

January may be the most miserable time of the year, but it has one great compensation; by now we’ve seen the worst of the flu vaccination campaign and patients acting as if they’re doing us a favour and as if we’re trying to flog them snake oil.

Patients who would usually quite happily swallow even the most toxic of medications in dosages that would choke a hippo suddenly become all prissy and sensitive about the remote possibility of side-effects.

'They say it gives you the flu,' I hear repeatedly and not for the first time wonder just who 'they' are (an uncle, aunt, idiot nephew or someone they met at the bus stop yesterday) and how 'they' know so bloody much about it and have suddenly become the repository of all worldly wisdom.

'My granny never gets the flu injection,' he said,'and she is 126 years old and her hobby is molesting badgers.'

'Indeed,' I said, 'though as I remember this is the same granny who insists she attended the Yalta Conference as a foreign policy advisor in Roosevelt's entourage and who also claims she managed a successful burger franchise during the Charge of the Light Brigade; perhaps not the most dependable source.'

'And anyway,' he said, unabashed, meticulously constructing his book of unimpeachable evidence, ‘my cousin had it last year and got an awful dose right afterwards.'

'I see,' I said, 'this being your cousin who works on the oil rigs in the North Sea.'

'Yes,' he said proudly, 'he's the boy alright.'

'And who extols a preference for wet and windy weather, the colder the better.'

'The very man; he swears by it, says it gets rid of all the germs. Is he a card or what?'

'And who refuses to wear protective or warm clothing as he reckons anyone who dresses sensibly in adverse weather conditions to be a, I think he phrased it, "a big girl's blouse".'

'And who consequently wears nothing but a cotton T-shirt at all times, XXL size yet never quite large enough to completely cover his ever expanding belly, which is therefore eternally exposed to the elements, as are the top two inches of his impressive gluteal cleavage; not that this is probably much fun for the elements either.'

'He said it was the injection,' he repeated, his tone by now vaguely threatening, as if I was casting aspersions on the virility of his seed, breed and generation.

'Yeah, alright,' I said, too weary to fight any longer, ‘you've convinced me. And here's a prescription; better send him some antibiotics.'

- Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Email him at

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