Are you man enough for a vaxxie (that’s a vaccination selfie to you and me)? That’s the question some of us are asking after having seen a host of politicians pose shirtless while getting their Covid-19 jabs. Not since Vladimir Putin shared those topless holiday pics, perfecting the butterfly stroke and breaking actual twigs with the simple power of his legs, have there been such strangely intimate insights into those who rule over us.
There are rules to the vaxxie: you must have Viking-level chest hair, you must let your shirt hang like Morrissey in his first appearance on Top of The Pops, and you must cut a straight to camera look that suggests Dr Ross-era George Clooney. The twinkle in your eyes should make clear that you are absolutely not going to wince when that needle comes near you.
In January, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the prime minister of Greece, showed us how to do it with the gritted determination of Kirk Douglas in Spartacus. Masked up and wearing a silver pendant that he surely picked up in Camden Market in 1993, Mitsotakis had a casually opened baby-blue work shirt which revealed an unapologetic garden of chest hair – and upper body that has clearly seen the HITT benefits of whoever the Greek Joe Wicks is. Vaccinations as domain of the Alpha heart-throb was not a pivot we could have imagined, even in the depths of our own corona’d-out fug. But it wasn’t just Mitsotakis, other politicians have been blue-steeling it too.
The Conservative MP Johnny Mercer, who looks like a video of Giles Coren being played backwards, had a vaxxie that was as slick as Mitsotakis’s (although the look in the nurse’s eyes can only be read as utter glee at administering something sharp into the arm of someone who tweets things like: “We tried with the shirt on but I simply couldn’t get the sleeves over my muscles”). While Dr Dan Poulter, another Tory MP, revealed a hairy torso and sported a pose that could double as an 8×10 headshot for the reboot of ITV’s Gladiators.
We’ve had variations too: Zdravko Marić, the minister of finance in Croatia, had his in a ridiculously tight white T-shirt, which was a not-so-humble body brag, while Olivier Véran, France’s health minister, coyly pulled his white shirt over his left breast while he was having his, like some office Christmas party version of Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus.
By baring their naked humanity, the politicians behind these vaxxies have reminded us that we’re all in it together. Not really, though. Mitsotakis got into trouble for breaking Covid restrictions and Véran’s house was searched by the French police following legal complaints about the government’s handling of the pandemic. And thanks to Poulter and Mercer’s government, the NHS workers who jabbed them will be receiving a mere 1% pay rise as a thank you.
So what has the vaxxie taught us about the modern man? Two things really: 1) we have all over-exercised in lockdown and 2) apparently none of us owns any short-sleeved tops.