The Washington Post

To selfie or not to selfie?

Should people post photos of themselves getting a coronaviru­s shot? Depends whom you ask.

- BY MERYL KORNFIELD

Why not everyone is sharing the social media joy of those getting vaccinated.

Given a shot at a coronaviru­s vaccine, many Americans say they would roll up their sleeves. But the decision to post a photo of the moment isn’t as black-and-white.

People are divided over “vaccine selfie” etiquette. As more people have been vaccinated — about 53 million in the United States had received at least one shot as of Thursday — the debate is unfolding in the media. “Cool it with the vaccine selfies for a while,” read the headline of a Boston Globe opinion column. “Go Ahead, Share Your Vaccine Selfie,” an Atlantic headline said.

Some people despise seeing the smiley selfies while a virus that has killed more than 2.5 million people worldwide continues to take a toll and as most Americans who want to be vaccinated still are unable to get a dose.

But public health experts hope photos of people being safely vaccinated will encourage their vaccine-hesitant social media connection­s to do the same. About 1 in 3 Americans said they definitely would not or probably would not get a coronaviru­s vaccinatio­n, according to a recent Associated PRESS-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll.

Posting a vaccine selfie when many are still not on the priority lists is boastful and could end up inflaming people’s “fear of missing out” (or “FOMO”), journalist Miles Howard argued in the Globe column. It also highlights inequities, selfie critics say, as people with better access to health care have had an easier time getting vaccinated.

“By all means celebrate, but celebrate privately,” Alan Drummond, a Canadian emergency physician, said to other doctors in remarks for the Conversati­on, an academiace­ntric newsroom. “Just don’t do it so publicly when a lot of your colleagues who are dealing with this stuff are dealing with their own anxieties and fears. We get it — we’re happy for you. Just don’t rub salt in our wounds.”

In stark contrast, the Atlantic called the posting of vaccinatio­n selfies “a public service.” Writer Brit Trogen argued that the emotional moment being captured is worth illustrati­ng to counter the personal stories shared by anti-vaccine groups that diminish trust.

“The thousands of photograph­s of healthcare workers beaming into the camera lens or shedding tears of joy and relief offer a profound emotional counterpar­t to the over

whelming statistics of the pandemic,” Trogen wrote.

Although most people cannot yet get shots, health-care workers can, and people with influence and respect in their communitie­s, such as physicians, have the power to persuade others to be vaccinated with encouragin­g posts, said Richard Baron, the president and chief executive of the American Board of Internal Medicine. The board suggested that its members post vaccine selfies and affirming messages such as, “I got vaccinated and you should, too!”

“I think we need to use every channel available,” Baron said in an interview.

Public officials have taken that cue, sharing their vaccinatio­ns publicly to reassure others, including President Biden and Vice President Harris, who were given shots at news gatherings. Celebritie­s have shared their experience with their large audience: NBC “Today”-show weatherman Al Roker received his first dose on the show live. “Queer Eye” star Jonathan Van Ness, who is HIVpositiv­e, posted his mid-shot selfie on Instagram, writing in the caption that people with underlying conditions should check their state’s eligibilit­y requiremen­ts for appointmen­ts.

Offering selfie stations, or spaces that are decorated at vaccinatio­n sites to allow people to pose and post from those locations, is one method officials have used to encourage posts.

Last week, conservati­ve commentato­r Noah Rothman took aim at a decked-out selfie station at a New Jersey mass-vaccinatio­n site, calling the photo op “dystopian” considerin­g the setting, “a recently liquidated Lord & Taylor that had been converted by the military and FEMA into a venue to mitigate the ongoing global plague.”

Baron, like many users who responded to Rothman’s post, disagreed that the selfie station was inappropri­ate if it helped to normalize vaccinatio­ns.

“It makes it normative,” Baron said. “It makes it the thing to do.”

Before uploading your selfie, you should make sure you have permission from people in the photo and leave out your personal informatio­n such as your Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccinatio­n card, the Federal Trade Commission advised.

When Baron posted photos of himself receiving his vaccinatio­ns, he did not show the needles, to avoid scaring people away, and he smiled — albeit through a mask.

He said he wanted to express the joy that came from receiving immune protection from the virus — and from taking a big step toward a return to normal life.

“If you’ve been vaccinated, there are things you can do — restaurant­s, airplanes,” he said. “You still want people wearing masks, but there’s a lot of good reasons for people to want the vaccine, and getting people excited about that, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that at all.”

Kimberly Manning, a physician at Atlanta’s Grady Hospital, tweeted a video after she was vaccinated, freestylin­g to the tune of the song “My Shot” from the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton.”

“I’m not throwing away my shot,” Manning rapped. “Let’s make a toast. Just got my second dose. I’m still gonna rock a mask and not stand close, ’ cause this SARS- COV-2 is not playin’. People dyin’, disabled. I’m sayin’ — if a vaccine will help us, I’m with it.”

Black doctors such as Manning have shared their selfies to embolden other Black people, a population that has been disproport­ionately affected by the pandemic but has expressed skepticism about vaccinatio­ns.

Manning acknowledg­ed in the video that Black people who feel unsure about the vaccinatio­ns have various reasons for their hesitancy. “If you got questions, we listening, we ears, but don’t lose your life over undiscusse­d fears,” she rhymed.

People who post about getting vaccinated should be considerat­e of those different perspectiv­es without lumping them together, Manning said in an interview. Those concerns include legitimate fears, she said, referring to a lingering mistrust of the medical system rooted in a history of prejudice, including the infamous syphilis study in Tuskegee, Ala., that monitored Black men with the disease and let them suffer and die without treatment.

“I believe science is real,” she said. “But I also know that history is real. I know that it’s real that people who look like me — long before the untreated-syphilis study in Macon County, Alabama — were tortured and mistreated in the name of science.”

The outreach to those who are unsure about the medical system also should not end with posting selfies, said Manning, who has worked at Grady for the past two decades. She said it is important to continue the dialogue about mistrust. The “Hamilton”-esque video was part of that.

“This is deeper than a post on social media,” Manning said. “This is a lifestyle for a lot of us.”

“There’s a lot of good reasons for people to want the vaccine, and getting people excited about that, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that at all.” Richard Baron, president and chief executive of the American Board of Internal Medicine

 ?? WATCHARA PHOMICINDA/MEDIANEWS GROUP/PRESS-ENTERPRISE/GETTY IMAGES ?? A selfie-taker at a Corona, Calif., vaccinatio­n site in January. The pro-selfie camp argues that such social media images encourage others to get vaccinated. Critics see them as a bit tone-deaf with so many still dying of covid-19 — and with so many not yet able to get vaccinated.
WATCHARA PHOMICINDA/MEDIANEWS GROUP/PRESS-ENTERPRISE/GETTY IMAGES A selfie-taker at a Corona, Calif., vaccinatio­n site in January. The pro-selfie camp argues that such social media images encourage others to get vaccinated. Critics see them as a bit tone-deaf with so many still dying of covid-19 — and with so many not yet able to get vaccinated.
 ?? RACHEL WISNIEWSKI FOR THE WASHINGTON POST ?? TOP: California School Employees Associatio­n union member Letetsia Fox takes a selfie with Austin Beutner, right, superinten­dent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, this week as education workers gather to get shots in Inglewood. ABOVE: David Fenster takes a photo in January at a selfie station set up at a Philadelph­ia vaccinatio­n site. Public health department­s across the country have encouraged selfie-posting to combat uneasiness about vaccinatio­ns.
RACHEL WISNIEWSKI FOR THE WASHINGTON POST TOP: California School Employees Associatio­n union member Letetsia Fox takes a selfie with Austin Beutner, right, superinten­dent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, this week as education workers gather to get shots in Inglewood. ABOVE: David Fenster takes a photo in January at a selfie station set up at a Philadelph­ia vaccinatio­n site. Public health department­s across the country have encouraged selfie-posting to combat uneasiness about vaccinatio­ns.
 ?? PATRICK T. FALLON/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES ??
PATRICK T. FALLON/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA