The last time I had a flu jab was four years ago and it was done on doctor’s advice a few months after my lung operation. Apparently a collapsed lung made me vulnerable. Against my better judgement but following his, I joined the queue at the appointed time and it was then my dystopian vision kicked in. The queue was long, snaking out from the surgery and extending almost as far as an adjacent supermarket. Waitrose, for those interested in detail.
We shuffled forward, a Napoleonic army of old codgers fleeing Moscow in an orderly line. And I couldn’t help but think: ‘demographic holocaust.’ That’s the curse of a dystopian mind. Next minute I was in. A glance. Jab. And out on the street.
Four days later I developed a lung infection that took over a month to clear and my dystopian demon crowed in my ear: ‘Sucker’.
I haven’t had one since. Whenever I weaken or hesitate, I hear that faint word again: Sucker. Last year hundreds and hundreds of elderly people died from the flu despite being vaccinated. The official response was that it was the wrong kind of flu, one that didn’t match the vaccination shots prepared some time in advance.
‘You believe that?’ my demon whispered. ‘You really believe that?’ His voice filled my head: ‘Wrong kind of flu or wrong kind of flu shot?’
And now another flu season approaches and the media is awash with dire warnings, but now with an extra dystopian twist. There are two kinds of shots being offered, though offered is the wrong word. Those under 65 are being offered shots against four strains of flu. Those over 65 are being offered shots against three strains of flu but with an added adjuvant, one designed to boost the immune system and thus make the vaccination more effective. Apart from the bureaucratic arbiteryness of 65 being the cut off point it appears a thought-out and sensible policy. But not if you’re a dystopian. ‘Sure, we keep the employable,’ the demon whispers, ‘but you’re in the wrong demographic, baby. They have a special one for you.’
In a mad fit of trust I went to the pharmacy and enquired if I could be given the four shot jab, the one reserved for the young. She looked at me grimly through her severe rimless glasses. ‘No,’ she said. ‘That’s impossible.
And I thought of my father. He had refused to sign the permission form for me and my brother to have the polio shot when it first came out. ‘Guinea pigs’ he muttered and that was it. Victorian obduracy, you might say, but then is that any worse than dystopian cretin? However much you play with them, Dystopian Victorian, obdurate cretin or dystopian obduracy, they all amount to much the same thing, though I think my dad comes out on top with Victorian Obduracy. It must come from somewhere