Health Advice



The do's and don'ts on social media for vaccine haves and have-nots

Chaseedaw Giles, Kaiser Health News on

Published in Health & Fitness

Posting about their day is a regular practice for Generations Y and Z, especially when they have something novel or exclusive to share. So, in the thick of a global pandemic, and with the shaky rollout of COVID vaccines making them somewhat of a holy grail, it’s no surprise selfies featuring the coveted shot are infecting social media timelines.

It might engender envy, even outrage, especially if the person posting seems to have cut the line. But what if the intention was to encourage others to also get the shot? Does that make it OK?

Since the pandemic began, people around the world are increasingly living out significant portions of their lives online. But with 72% of the American public using some type of social media, according to the Pew Research Center, who sets the rules for proper social media etiquette?

“This is a totally new type of world to have a pandemic in,” said Catherine Newman, the etiquette columnist at Real Simple and author of the book “How to Be a Person.” One advantage of using social media, she said, is that people can create waves of public opinion from which everyone can benefit. Newman, who also volunteers at a hospice, was vaccinated and posted a selfie. She said the selfies can help address some of the public health mistrust issues that have contributed to vaccine hesitancy.

“I don’t want to see a picture of your yacht on social media,” she said. She’d rather see COVID vaccine selfies but cautions users to be mindful of the caption they choose.

After all, nearly 500,000 American lives have been lost in the pandemic and stark disparities have emerged in vaccination rates — especially among communities of color and older adults who are in the highest risk categories.


It raises the question: Is posting a vaccine selfie on your social media account a faux pas or still par for the course?

Elaine Swann, a lifestyle and etiquette expert, a certified mediator in the state of California and the founder of the Swann School of Protocol in Carlsbad, California, echoed those precautions. “RNs and front-line workers have a very different story to tell than a 20-something-year-old who got vaccinated for some obscure reason,” she said.

At the same time, she said, it’s not necessarily clear how someone came to be eligible for the vaccine. A person could present young and healthy at first glance but could have a health condition or other qualifying criteria. “We don’t know,” she said. She advises that posters follow what she calls the three core values of manners: respect, honesty and consideration.

And the same goes for people reacting to the posts.


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