When I was a child, a boy I knew was rushed to hospital. I don’t know what was wrong with him; all I remember is a friend of my parents saying the only reason he survived was because he responded so well to the antibiotics. That wasn’t a given, apparently. Antibiotics were so over-prescribed, this friend said, our bodies were becoming resistant to them.
For years after that, I was wary of medicine. As a teenager, I read Louise L Hay, and believed that all illnesses were psychosomatic, a manifestation of a troubled mind. I wouldn’t take as much as paracetamol if I had a headache, saying my body would heal itself, and that ‘Western Medicine’ was a cult which needed us to be reliant on medication for profit. I was basically Tom Cruise saying “you’re glib, Matt,” as he criticised Brooke Shields for taking antidepressants to treat her post-natal depression.
Of course, my hypocrisy was revealed every weekend when, after a few shots of cheap vodka, I would swallow literally anything that was handed to me if it was guaranteed to make the party last a little longer. And as real life reared its ugly head, when people I knew, people I loved, became sick — cancer, bipolar disorder, crippling depression — I didn’t think 'oh a good juice cleanse and a visit to a sweat lodge is the way to go here'. Friends would tell me of their treatment plans, chemo and tablets, and injections, availing of years of medical and scientific research, and I nodded eagerly because all I wanted was for them to survive.
The reason why I’m telling you this is because a part of me understands why some people are hesitant about the Covid19 vaccine. Women, in particular, are used to being ill-served by the medical system, their pain ignored and dismissed. Caroline Criado Perez, the author of, writes that the medical system is “from root to tip, systematically discriminating against women, leaving them chronically misunderstood, mistreated, and misdiagnosed.” (For example — women are 50% more likely to be misdiagnosed after a heart attack because our symptoms present differently than men. Human studies are more likely to use male subjects than female, even though our bodies metabolise drugs differently, thus making them less effective for women. Black women in Britain are four times more likely to die in childbirth because racial bias in pain assessment is so prevalent.)
It’s okay to have questions, indeed, it’s important that we ask them. What is not okay is the deliberate dissemination of lies and misinformation concerning this vaccine. As a writer, the idea that the virus is a global conspiracy engineered by Bill Gates to… microchip us all (??) is an interesting one. But then all I have to do is stop and ask myself one question — do I really believe that Micheál Martin is Dr Evil from the Austin Powers movie? — and I move on with my life.
Branding the ‘MSM’ (mainstream media) as ‘liars’ and ‘shills’ for the government is so personally offensive to me because my partner is a news correspondent and I see first-hand how hard he and his colleagues work and how much they value journalistic integrity. There are no kickbacks, no bribes handed under the table to ensure compliance.
Listen, I understand how easy it is to get sucked into this stuff — after watching a 20-minute YouTube video about ‘Larry’ in 2014, I was convinced Louis Tomlinson and Harry Styles of One Direction were embroiled in a passionate affair — but it’s time for some common sense now. People can misappropriate the slogan of Repeal as much as they want, shouting My Body, My Choice!, but ultimately, if I decide to have an abortion, the only person that choice impacts is me. In order to ensure herd immunity and protect the most vulnerable in our society, we need a sufficient uptake of the vaccine. It’s not just your body, in the end.
You might read this column and decide I’m talking nonsense. After all, this is just an opinion piece and if I’ve learned anything in three years of dating a journalist, it’s that opinions are not facts. I’m not a doctor. I’m not a scientist. I don’t equate reading a few poorly-cited articles on Facebook as ‘research’ because I understand that this kind of research is a highly specialised practice that I am not qualified to do. The only thing I am qualified to do is to trust the experts so that is what I plan to do. Will you do the same?
By rights, the comedian Joanne McNally should be a household name. Razor sharp, hilarious, and utterly unpredictable in equal measures, her two podcasts ( with Muireann O’Connell, and with Vogue Williams) are great fun.
by Mona Eltahawy. This book is like a Molotov cocktail aimed straight at the patriarchy’s heart. Enraging, energising, devastating, and infuriating, it will unsettle and inspire you.