Ther summer trend is not a dish or a dress, but a clean health check posted on social media. There’s even a word for it: a “vaxinista” – a combination of “fashionista” and “vaccine” – is someone who has not only had both jabs, but who wants to spread it via vaccine selfies, cards and even merchandise.
This interest in pharmaceuticals has now reached a strange new frontier: used pharmaceutical souvenirs. On eBay, old memorabilia marked with the Pfizer and AstraZeneca logos sell for tens and hundreds of pounds. AstraZeneca paperweights and ballpoint pens cost £ 150 and £ 50 respectively. Offers for a Pfizer lab coat start at £ 106, a ‘pre-loved’ Pfizer denim shirt at £ 100, and a Disneyland Pfizer conference t-shirt at £ 144. Meanwhile, newspapers from the day the vaccine was announced are selling for over £ 40.
A seller of a Pfizer-branded pen told The Guardian that he listed the article “years ago but no one was interested.” This time around 20 people were in contact asking to “buy it now” rather than bidding on the site. eBay was unable to provide actual data “due to the niche nature of thematic items”.
“The pandemic has plunged us into a collection frenzy, but not for obvious reasons,” says Dr Dimitrios Tsivrikos, consumer and business psychologist at UCL. “People think these things could be valuable in 10 years, but they also buy them to gain control, even score, which has been a very difficult situation.
The merchandise, and in particular the t-shirts and slogan pins, has been an expression of the values of its wearers for years. Vaccine merchandising has a very special purpose: when it comes to wearing your political values on your sleeve, it gives physical form to a historic moment that would otherwise be forgotten, perhaps with the exception of your vaccine sticker. Like the punters who buy merchandise from the band after a gig, that’s one way of saying I was there, says Tsivrikos. “People are trying to be part of the conversation. Wearing something isn’t just about fashion; it is a reflection of the situation and, in this case, even take a pro-vaccination position.
It’s one way of explaining why the pandemic has been tough on retail but a banner year for merchandise, with many key moments translated into souvenirs to buy. From lockdown birthday cards to Fauci caps, in reference to American immunologist Dr Anthony Fauci, some companies that have been forced to close their stores have turned to making mayflies to cover overhead costs, while d others scoffed at NHS T-shirts for more altruistic reasons.
It also explains why thousands of people have jumped on the bandwagon. The small business shopping platform Etsy runs over 25,000 searches for slogan t-shirts, pins, badges, mugs, bucket hats, wine labels, banners, and vaccine related bumper stickers. Some pieces have a more general theme (the bobs of the Culturaticlub say “vaccinated”). Others point out the pharmaceutical company that offered the jab, with ironic irony.
“It was mostly a fun way to encourage everyone to get vaccinated,” says Posh and Loom, an Etsy seller, whose unisex T-shirt lists the companies “Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson” in a list. . The names aren’t listed in order of preference for vaccines: “They kind of merged to create this cool design,” a spokesperson said. Etsy, which has 10 million users worldwide, was aware of the trend but was unable to share UK sales figures as it is relatively new.
UK started vaccination campaign with Pfizer / BioNTech jab in December, before introducing the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine in January. In April, NIH / Moderna was introduced and this week Pfizer and BioNTech were approved for donation to those over 12. “Before the pandemic, few people had heard of Pfizer,” said a former US employee of Pfizer, who wishes to remain anonymous. The so-called entry of pharmaceutical companies into everyday life has been marked by people eager to publicize their immune status, he says.
It is a trend not without controversy. Most of the second-hand parts are likely memorabilia from the kind of events sponsored by US pharmaceutical companies that are under closer scrutiny in the wake of Obamacare’s Sunshine Act, which required transparent relationships. between healthcare providers and pharmaceutical manufacturers.
According to Slate, the vaccine-specific product carried by so-called “Pfizerphiles” is also likely to trigger “vaccine hesitation” about other vaccines, at a time when some of the vaccines suffer a public relations crisis due to rare blood clots associated with them. . In a 2018 report on vaccine imaging, Johns Hopkins University found that “imagery is particularly important in communications related to vaccination, an area of public health with advocates and opponents of advocated behavior.” These images, it seems, carry weight.
Harriet Cosham, spokesperson for Pfizer in the UK, said the company “does not endorse any of the products in any way.” She admitted, however, that this was the first time many people had heard of Pfizer.
In some cases, showing that you have had the vaccine through your T-shirt simply breeds resentment. Robbie, an entrepreneur from London, recently uploaded a ‘Vaccinated’ t-shirt to Instagram after receiving his jab. “My girlfriend bought [me one] and obviously it’s just meant to be [funny]. But some people said I was showing off, ”he told The Guardian on Instagram. “I just love that I have something to show from a really crappy year. Robbie then deleted the post, but said he still wears the t-shirt “occasionally”.