LTC nurse Limin Liu, right, takes a selfie as registered nurse Sasha Vartley, left, vaccinates her with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA vaccine during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Tuesday, December 15, 2020. Toronto and Peel region continue to be in lockdown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Vaccine selfies are the new social media trend, but also a reminder of unequal access

Experts say these selfies can encourage others to overcome their vaccine hesitancy

In the old influencer economy, sun-kissed vacation pictures and glossy group shots were among the most valuable forms of social media currency. Now, these pandemic-flouting posts would be cause for public derision.

But a new type of photo has taken their place to induce FOMO — fear of missing out — across the online sphere: the vaccine selfie.

Photos of Canadians smiling beneath their masks as they roll up their sleeves to show off their bandages are increasingly cropping up on social media feeds as the country’s immunization campaign expands to new segments of the population.

Experts say these selfies can encourage others to overcome their vaccine hesitancy, but may also incite jealousy among those who aren’t eligible to book their appointments.

Ara Yeremian, a realtor in Vaughan, Ont., shared his vaccine selfie across social media platforms after receiving his first dose in January as the caregiver to his 91-year-old parents who live in a long-term care home.

“I wanted everybody to know that I was doing well and it’s safe to take,” said Yeremian. “Being able to be part of the solution makes me really happy.”

Ryan Quintal, a registered practical nurse in London, Ont., said he felt it was his “duty” as a health-care professional to post his selfie as a way of showing his online followers that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.

The 34-year-old said the photo even prompted some friends to reach out and ask questions about getting vaccinated.

“The photo kind of represented that your turn could be coming up next,” said Quintal. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

While Yeremian and Quintal say the reactions to their vaccine selfies were overwhelmingly positive, other social media users have prodding questions from commenters about how they qualified for their vaccines.

Dr. Karim Ali, director of infectious diseases for Niagara Health in Ontario, said post-injection selfies run the risk of fomenting a digital divide between the “have nots” and “have lots” of Canada’s piecemeal vaccine rollout.

Ali felt this frustration in January as he saw Toronto health-care administrators posting about getting vaccinated, while his front-line colleagues fighting an outbreak in Niagara had yet to receive their first shipment of doses.

“Vaccine envy was a real thing,” he said. “You can’t help but feel dejected. You can’t help feeling that you are left out.”

READ MORE: Canada’s total COVID-19 case count surpasses one million

Ali doesn’t judge people who want to celebrate their injections with their online followers, and believes influencers have a role to play in spreading the word about vaccine safety.

But stoking social media envy isn’t an effective public health strategy, he said, particularly when most Canadians are still patiently waiting their turn to be vaccinated.

“Think twice before you post anything,” said Ali. “There are so many people who are suffering and will continue to suffer until we get out of this.”

Krishana Sankar, science communication lead for the online platform COVID-19 Resources Canada, said vaccine selfies can be a powerful tool to combat online misinformation spreading unfounded fears about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Personal testimonials such as selfies can carry more weight than the word of health authorities, said Sankar, particularly for members of marginalized communities who may have trouble trusting the institutions that have oppressed them.

“People tend to trust people they know,” she said. “A lot of the conversations around hesitancy actually starts within that bubble of family and friends talking about their concerns about it.”

“If one person gets the vaccine, and several other people are seeing that, it causes a trickle effect.”

Sankar also cautioned social media users against prodding selfie sharers about how they qualified for their vaccinations.

While she understands that people are curious about how to secure their own place in line, Sankar said it’s wrong to question someone’s eligibility based on assumptions about their lifestyle and medical history.

Many people who may appear young and healthy could be suffering from autoimmune conditions that put them at high risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes, she noted.

“A lot of people are very quick to judge and criticize others without actually having any idea of the backstory of what’s actually going on,” she said.

“A little bit of kindness can take us a far longer way.”

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

About 80 demonstrators walked through Hope with signs in support of saving the Station House on March 23, 2021. (Photo/Christian Ward)
Public hearing now planned for Hope’s Station House decision

Council has now taken steps to remove heritage status from historic building

Workers were on scene to clean up the oil spill in Abbotsford at Trans Mountain Pipeline’s Sumas pump station in June 2020. (File photo by Shane MacKichan)
TSB releases final report on June 2020 oil spill in Abbotsford

Transportation Safety Board says pipeline fitting to blame for spill of up to 190K litres

Chilliwack General Hospital. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress file)
Chilliwack General Hospital gets all-clear from Fraser Health as outbreak ends

The latest outbreak was 20 days from the start, on March 25, to being declared over on April 13

GW Graham (SD33.bc.ca)
Entire class at Chilliwack’s G.W. Graham secondary school in isolation after exposure to COVID-19

Students have been told to remain home after four days of exposure last week

Cemetery staff installed the wrong headstone on the grave of Jima Kiir, even though the headstone’s photo did not match with the photo placed on the grave. (Submitted photo)
Abbotsford mother upset city placed wrong headstone on son’s grave

Cemetery staff mix up graves of 2 recently deceased men from South Sudanese community

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

In Ontario, COVID-19 vaccine clinics have been set up at local mosques. (Submitted photo: Rufaida Mohammed)
Getting the vaccine does not break your fast, says Muslim COVID-19 task force

Muslim community ‘strongly’ encouraging people to get their shot, whether or not during Ramadan

Shannon Claypool, president of the Cloverdale Rodeo & Exhibition Association, stands outside the Cloverdale Rec. Centre. The rec. centre has been set up as a mass vaccination site by Fraser Health and the Association has decided to cancel the rodeo in order to offer the fairgrounds for public parking. (Submitted)
Cloverdale Rodeo cancelled

Fairgrounds to be used as public parking for mass vaccination site at Cloverdale Rec. Centre

A plane is seen through the window on the tarmac of Vancouver International Airport as the waiting room is empty. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
100+ international travellers who landed in B.C. refused to quarantine

The Public Health Agency of Canada says it issued $3,000 violation tickets to each

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A health-care worker holds up a vial of the AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Montreal, Thursday, March 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
PHAC receives first report of blood clot linked to AstraZeneca

The federal agency says the person is now recovering at home

A real estate sign is pictured in Vancouver, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS Jonathan Hayward
1 in 3 young Canadians have given up on owning a home: poll

Data released Monday says 36% of adults younger than 40 have given up on home ownership entirely

Dr. Bonnie Henry gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. urges people to stay in their neighbourhoods, discourages out-of-household meet-ups

Dr. Bonnie Henry says there should be no travel, even to the next city over

Most Read