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

The seventh annual Interior Savings Unplug and Play Family Literacy Week is scheduled for April 18 to 24. (File photo)
Annual Unplug and Play Week scheduled for April 18 to 24

Activities include making craft bags, neighbourhood hidden gems bingo, a scavenger hunt and more

A West Kelowna home was damaged in a fire that occurred overnight on Saturday, April 17. (Photo courtesy of West Kelowna Fire Rescue)
West Kelowna home damaged in overnight fire

The cause of the fire is undetermined and has been deemed unsuspicious

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

Black Crow Cannabis is just one of Vernon's many pot shops now open in town. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Kelowna has highest cannabis fees in Okanagan

Vernon’s 14 stores pay second highest business licence fees

Serving alcohol has been altered in the Central Okanagan Public Schools policy regarding rental of school facilities for after-school hours events. (Contributed)
Alcohol option opened up at Central Okanagan school facilities rented for events

Central Okanagan Board of Education retains final approval for after-hours event approvals

Flow Academy is located at 1511 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here’s a quick roundup of the stories that made headlines across the Okanagan, from April 11 to 16

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

Nick Clements captured a photo of the Northern Lights over Oyama Friday night, April 16, 2021. (Nick Clements photo)
PHOTOS: Northern Lights colour Okanagan night

Residents saw the dazzling green aurora borealis throughout the valley Friday night

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

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

An Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Island (XRVI) climate change event in 2019 saw a large crowd occupy the Johnson Street bridge. Black Press File Photo
‘In grief for our dying world’: B.C. climate activists embark on 4-day protest

Demonstrators will walk through Vancouver for the first two days before boarding a ferry Sunday morning

A vial of some of the first 500,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada secured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Canada’s 2nd blood clot confirmed in Alberta after AstraZeneca vaccine

The male patient, who is in his 60s, is said to be recovering

Valen a student of Coldstream Elementary writes advice for adults amid a pandemic.
‘We can get rid of COVID together’: B.C. kids share heartwarming advice

Elementary students share their wisdom to adults in unprecedented times

The funeral of Britain’s Prince Philip in Windsor, England, on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Philip died April 9 at the age of 99. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)
PHOTOS: Prince Philip laid to rest Saturday as sombre queen sits alone

The entire royal procession and funeral took place out of public view within the grounds of Windsor Castle

Most Read