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Age of the vaccine selfie: The ‘vaxxie’ is now a rage, coming as a source of hope, as well as FOMO for netizens

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A file photo of Dolly Parton getting coronavirus vaccination @Dollyparton, via Reuters

earlier this year, American philanthropist and business magnate Bill Gates posted on Twitter: “One of the benefits of being 65 is that I’m eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine. I got my first dose this week, and I feel great. Thank you to all of the scientists, trial participants, regulators, and frontline healthcare workers who got us to this point.”

Bill Gates is not alone in sharing news of his vaccination with the world. “Dolly gets a dose of her own medicine,” Dolly Parton wrote on Instagram, a reference to the $1 million she donated last year for coronavirus vaccine research to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, which worked with Moderna. In fact, the glittery navy-blue cold-shoulder top, designed by creative director Steve Summers, that she wore for her vaccination was trending too.

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“Got my first jab… It really didn’t hurt that bad… The second one was easy… Yes, you are vaccinated!” These are all different ways vaccination news has been shared online, coming as an assurance, source of hope, as well as celebration. Perhaps that’s why the vaccine selfie is vital and viral. The ‘vaxxie’ is today becoming a social media trend.

Politicians and celebrities are all part of this trend. From Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and United States President Joe Biden to celebrities like English actor Ian McKellen, all their shots have made it to the headlines. Their posing for the cameras is also a way to convince the public about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.

One advantage of using social media is that one can create waves of public opinion. A large number of people have felt vaccine hesitancy. They have questions and doubts. Self-clicking is an apt way to convince those who don’t trust the vaccine. After all, if you see your peers getting vaccinated, you are more likely to get vaccinated too.

News of vaccination of frontline workers—the first ones to get vaccinated—also brought in recognition and a feeling of gratitude for their work. Mumbai-based psychologist and relationship counsellor Namrata Jain says, “As vaccinations moved on to the geriatric population, selfies brought in a sense of happiness, security, safety for people who had parents above the age of 60 with comorbidities. It gave a sense of relief that they are much safer now. But the flip side is as more people started posting, it became a trend and started resulting in a FOMO (the fear of missing out) effect which brought a sense of anxiety, feeling of uncertainty and anticipatory fear. All of this can add to mental health concerns for few who were already prone to distress, anxiety, fear and feelings of sadness.”

Whether it makes you anxious or is an occasion of comfort, as you can meet, hug and greet your loved ones without any hassle, vaccine selfies have spread across social networks and apps. “The virus has killed many worldwide and people are in great distress financially, emotionally and physically. In the given situation, the vaccine has brought some hope of recovery. By taking vaccines, one not only protects one’s own self, but also the community from the virus.

It is that sense of contribution to society, a sense of accomplishment and an urge to be perceived as a safe and responsible citizen, that makes a person take a selfie. Taking a selfie while being vaccinated and putting it out to the world helps to quash rumours circulating about its severe side effects,” says Mumbai-based communications professional Nazneen Shaikh.

In fact, many have walked through selfie booths, posing and clicking, and encouraging people to share pictures online with trending hashtags. It also helps cut down the spread of misinformation. The vaccine selfie can bring solace amid all the isolation and gloom we are in currently.

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