Although vaccine selfies – or “vaxxies” – are a new phenomenon, they are also part of a long tradition.
Dolly Parton, Mariah Carey and Arnold Schwarzenegger are among those who have posted videos or images showing a COVID photo. Politicians also post online after rolling up their sleeves and – in some cases – unbuttoning their shirts. Ministers in Greece, France and England have been teased and praised for laying bare their humanity.
British MP Brendan Clarke-Smith said he was only trying to show the vaccine was safe, even though he did not expect to show as much skin as he did.
“It’s just to reassure people,” he told “CBS This Morning” correspondent Roxana Saberi. “I didn’t expect to get the vaccine, so if I had, I would have worn a t-shirt. So, I probably must have shown a little more flesh than I expected.
But the MP’s photo wasn’t the only thing that grabbed attention on social media.
“I was pretty hairy too, so I got a few comments on that too,” he joked.
As COVID-19 is the world’s first social media pandemic, using visuals to encourage vaccinations is a long tradition. An 18th-century engraving, for example, shows the creator of the smallpox vaccine Edward Jenner inoculating a child.
Natasha McEnroe, curator of medicine at the Science Museum in London, says that after the polio vaccine went into effect in 1955, public health campaigns used several forms of media such as photos of beautiful women and even famous people like Elvis Presley to promote them through public influence.
“Of course Elvis Presley was pictured, given the polio vaccine was something that had a huge influence,” McEnroe told Saberi. “If all is well for Elvis, all is well for us!” “
In 1976, President Gerald Ford posed for his swine flu shot, and in 2009, President Barack Obama did too.
But social media has been a game-changer in the current pandemic for groups like the British Red Cross. The organization posts images of ordinary people getting vaccinated, which curator Mehzebin Adam says helps normalize the experience.
“The hesitation about vaccines has been around for as long as vaccination has been around,” she told Saberi. “Looking at people’s real stories separates fact from fiction, so people have more accurate information about vaccines. “
Some critics say the vaccine photo shoot can create resentment – after all, not everyone has access to a photo of COVID-19.
But McEnroe, who is already archiving evidence of the coronavirus pandemic, says the trend is generally a good thing.
“It’s a way of unifying us,” she said. “The fact that getting an injection isn’t just protecting me, it’s protecting the community around me. And more importantly, maybe, they create a role by making some of us smile, which I think is really, really important right now. “
She says that when future generations look back on this pandemic, they will see more than just a snapshot of this moment in history.