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A case of foot in mouth disease

Her granddaughter is a pharmacist. Her great-granddaughter is at medical school. She spends much of her time on the internet. Mrs Jones is always well informed. She wants to know if you had a flu vaccination last year.

Show us the evidence for the flu jab

It throws you, because it's not the obvious question, which would be: ‘Will you have a flu vaccination this year?'

Although you've been entitled to one all these years, you've never availed yourself. You've never had influenza (not even man-flu) during your adult years. So you could have had 15 or maybe 20 such injections without preventing an illness even once.

You point out you would have faced an ever-increasing risk of adverse reactions in time for your dotage, when you would most need a flu vaccination.

Mrs Jones is undeterred. She tells you that people in high places say GPs who do not have the flu vaccine are selfish.

You remind her there was a shortage of vaccines last year and that the Government allowed the nation's family doctors to take the blame.

She's not finished yet. She tells you they say that doctors who do not have the vaccination put patients at risk by spreading the illness.

Yes, you respond, we probably do spread more illnesses than we care to admit. But influenza is a very severe illness; few sufferers have the strength to walk, let alone come into work when they are afflicted. By the way, who exactly are ‘they'?

Mrs Jones tells you her source is the chief medical officer. You shake your head. You should not believe all the rubbish you find on the internet.

The next day finds your nose in Pulse. Oh dear!

You should have known she would be right. Mrs Jones is always well informed. You will need to apologise to her.

But first it's time to get out the voodoo doll. You attach a label bearing the letters ‘CMO'.

‘This little pin is for a dose of influenza.' Not being vindictive. Just want our friend to know from first-hand experience that it's not possible to come into work with real flu.

‘This little pin is for a dose of influenza vaccine.' Not being vindictive, but it's a tester. Having tasted the real illness, will our friend pass the selfish test?

When there is a shortage of vaccine will our friend allow someone else, someone more in need, to have first call?'

‘And this little pin is a dose of vaccine for foot in mouth disease.' Not being vindictive. Just don't want our friend to have a recurrence.

From Dr Bernard Newgrosh,