Dating apps have a vaguely dystopian way of reflecting social trends, like a horny funhouse mirror, and over the past 10 months the profiles of adventurous singles have evolved in a scientifically-fuzzy but parallel track alongside our understanding of the virus’ spread. Proposals for Zoom dates became “I have the antibodies” which gave way to screenshots of negative COVID-19 tests. So it wasn’t surprising, as I was absentmindedly swiping last week, to see the first trickle of COVID-19 vaccine flexes making its way onto the apps. A doctor with one arm of his scrubs rolled up; a response to the “Believe it or not, I…” prompt that finishes the sentence with “have the vaccine.”
It’s not just the straight men of Brooklyn: A quick search for “vaccinated” on Scruff produces dozens of profiles, often with a flirty emoji after the word. A Twitter user based in Ireland posted the Grindr profile of a “vaccinated top” with the foreboding caption, “It has begun.” It’s inevitable: the antibody bro is about to become the vaccine bro.
Personally, I feel the same way about COVID-19 on dating apps as I do about COVID-19 in my movies and TV: the less, the better. Sure, we’ll need to discuss distancing and other precautions before we meet up, but pandemic references tend to come off as either glib or just unoriginal: if I see one more crack about quarantine beards, I may just need to give up on apps entirely. This is rapidly becoming true for vaccination brags, too.
The main reason for this is that, at least going by public health guidelines, antibodies or vaccination do not yet make for a more responsible date. Immunity kicks in a full two weeks after your second shot, so, at least in the U.S., very few recipients could logistically be disease-proof by now. More importantly, we don’t know yet if the vaccine prevents COVID-19 spread. John P. Moore, an immunologist at Weill Cornell Medical College, confirmed that all vaccine guidance mandates recipients take the same precautions they were taking pre-inoculation: wear masks, socially distance, and get tested when possible. “It’s not certain that vaccines prevent mild or asymptomatic infection,” he said, emphasizing that all we know so far is they prevent recipients from developing symptoms themselves. “You can have mild or asymptomatic infection and still be able to spread coronavirus to other people.” Your vaccinated date could still give you coronavirus, in other words, and throwing caution to the wind when the pandemic is by any measure at its worst point (and getting worse every day) is not exactly makeout material, at least to me.
Beyond the scientific sleight-of-hand, the vaccine brag does have some tone issues, given how catastrophically the distribution process is already going. “I think it’s cringe and tonedeaf to be, like, ‘Hey guys, got my vaccine!! Let’s fuck!!’” wrote Conan, the Twitter user who posted that Grindr screenshot. “It feels very gauche to be advertising your immune status considering what the country is going through at the moment.” (Ireland’s per capita numbers skyrocketed to the highest in the world this week, driven by the terrifying mutation that’s taken off across the pond.) Sierra, an international development consultant in Brooklyn, agrees. “If you’re flaunting the vax on your profile I would probably think you’re a dick,” she said. “So few people have it and it’s a lame thing to brag about.”
Luke, a teacher who just became eligible to receive a vaccine as part of the second phase, is similarly wary of the vibe mentioning his vaccine will give off. “People are quick to make judgments about whether someone deserves the vaccine, which I completely understand,” he said. He doubts he’ll actually name-check it on his profile but said he’ll certainly feel more comfortable dating once he’s fully immune and the public health consensus changes. “I have a small pod of friends, and the pod agreement makes dating difficult,” he said. “Once I’m vaccinated, I’ll feel more comfortable meeting strangers.”
Feeling comfortable meeting strangers—what a concept! But if all goes according to plan, we’ll get there at some point this year, and the vaccine bro will thankfully become a short-lived phenomenon. It’s a virtuous cycle: The more bros (and non-bros, of course) who get vaccinated, the sooner life can go back to normal. Being vaccinated won’t be a flex on Tinder any more. We’ll finally be able to start doing things in person again—maybe even chatting up a stranger at a bar.
COVID-19 Caution Is an Excellent Dating Litmus Test
If you guys can’t get on the same page about mitigating virus risk, things were probably never going to work out anyway.
By Sable Yong