Skip to main content
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track on the Olympic Games
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week for 24 weeks
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track onthe Olympics Games
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Ramona Ramos takes a selfie as a nurse from Humber River Hospital's mobile vaccination clinic administers the first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a Toronto Community Housing building in Toronto on April 13, 2021.

CARLOS OSORIO/Reuters

Vaccines are the way out of the accursed COVID-19 pandemic, so we should be celebrating the vaccinated at every turn.

So why have so many vaccine clinics in Canada posted aggressive “no photos” posters? Why are so many people getting self-righteous finger-wagging instead of encouragement and praise when they pull out their phones?

Vaccination is not only an individual good, it’s also a societal one. The atmosphere at our vaccination clinics should be celebratory, not funereal.

Story continues below advertisement

What better way to tackle vaccine hesitancy than to see Canadians of all ages, shapes and sizes smiling – behind a mask, of course – as they get the jab?

Canada vaccine tracker: How many COVID-19 doses have been administered so far?

If anything, we should be a mounting a public campaign that rivals Tim Hortons’ annual “roll up the rim” drive, featuring some of the roughly 10 million Canadians who have rolled up their sleeves.

We had the right instincts at the outset of the vaccine rollout. On Dec. 14, 2020, Gisèle Lévesque, an 89-year-old resident of the Saint-Antoine nursing home in Quebec City, received the first COVID-19 vaccination in Canada. She was featured on every newscast in the country.

What followed were images of the first personal support worker to get their vaccine, then the first nurse, then the first doctor, and on and on. Many front-line physicians and nurses have proudly posted photos while getting shots – the first glimmer of hope in their work lives in a long time.

Eventually and ideally, we would get politicians to pose for the cameras, too, especially those who want to convince members of the public that the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and effective.

So why should we treat the public differently? Why is it okay when health-care workers post selfies, but when everyday Joe Schmoes do so, they receive hectoring and shaming?

This question has been much debated in cyberspace, and apparently, there are three principal arguments against selfies: privacy, efficiency and dignity.

Story continues below advertisement

Privacy is obviously not an issue for the person taking the selfie. We can take photos of ourselves whenever and however we please. Concerns about privacy of the person administering the vaccine – the nurse, the physician, the pharmacist – are legitimate, but can be easily overcome with a simple conversation. Indeed, most health professionals are proud of their work and would gladly be included in a photo. So we should ask, politely. If they demur, the camera can easily be adjusted to exclude these masked heroes.

Then there’s the argument that people taking selfies waste time. Piffle. Canada’s vaccine rollout is not exactly a well-oiled machine, and if a picture takes a few extra seconds, so what?

Again, this is an act of civic engagement, not a medical act that must be performed in secrecy.

Finally, it has been argued that selfies are, well, selfish – that they can create “vaccine envy.”

That’s preposterous. Yes, there are a lot of people waiting to be vaccinated. Yes, there are inequities. But banning photos does nothing to resolve those issues.

If seeing a photo of someone getting a shot makes us more eager to get ours – well, all the better.

Story continues below advertisement

After all, we know there is widespread vaccine hesitancy – not people who are anti-vaccination, but who have legitimate questions and doubts. One of the best ways to overcome that mistrust is by normalizing vaccination. If you see your peers getting vaccinated, you are more likely to do so yourself.

So why would we ban photos? That would be like cutting off your nose to spite your face.

When this is all over, some of the most poignant memories we will have of the pandemic will be visual: images of empty streets, isolated loved ones at windows, intensive-care units, sourdough bread, and more. Vaccine selfies should have a place of honour among those galleries of remembrance, to mark the long-awaited end of those hardships.

Is there an element of narcissism in selfies? Perhaps. The French word for selfie is “ego portrait,” which seems fitting. But selfies, and images more generally, have become a key way of communicating in the digitally, physically distanced world.

As our vaccination rollout targets younger and younger age groups – Gen X, millennials, Gen Z – we should be encouraging, not quashing, their means of communicating.

This pandemic has provided many lessons for public-health officials, among them that they need to shake off any prurience and embrace any and all platforms that people use to exchange information in their everyday lives.

Story continues below advertisement

So tear down those “no photos” posters and bring on the selfies! Fill up Instagram and Twitter feeds with close-ups of the needle. Post the selfies on Facebook for the grandchildren to see. Pull out your phone and boast about the bandage.

Every vaccine we administer should be a smiling celebration of hope, widely shared.

Sign up for the Coronavirus Update newsletter to read the day’s essential coronavirus news, features and explainers written by Globe reporters and editors.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies