Enter the Age of the Vaccine Selfie

From topless politicians to designers, it’s a thing. And it’s part of a longer tradition than you might expect.

By Vanessa Friedman

Someday, when the history of the pandemic is written, it may be a narrative told partly in images: the despair of crowded hospitals and body bags, the fear and isolation of the masks. And then the balm of a smiling individual, one sleeve rolled up practically to the collarbone, with a medical worker poised to jab a needle into their upper arm. Log in to any social platform, and the picture — not to mention The Pose — is almost impossible to miss.

The vaccine selfie has gone viral.

“I started seeing vaccine selfies almost as soon as the vaccines were available,” said David Broniatowski, an associate professor of engineering and applied science at George Washington University. “It was an almost immediate meme.” And rather than petering out, it seems only to be picking up steam.

Indeed, said Jeanine D. Guidry, an assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University focusing on public health and health communications, “It may end up being one of the iconic images of this time.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it has sparked its own bizarre sub-trend: the topless (or partially topless) vaccine selfie, as most often modeled by European politicians, but also the occasional celebrity.

There have been partially disrobed selfies shared by the French health minister Olivier Véran (white dress shirt unbuttoned and left side exposed) and the Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis (blue button-up pulled rakishly to one elbow, hairy chest on display). See the partially disrobed selfies from a variety of British members of Parliament, including Brendan Clarke-Smith (checked shirt pulled askew practically to the belly button, with one button above the belt done up for modesty) and Johnny Mercer (entirely shirtless).

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