A few months ago, signaling that you’d been vaccinated could backfire or open you to scorn and charges that you got the vaccine before other, perhaps more deserving people. But now that vaccination appointments are much easier to come by, wearing a pin, sticker, or T-shirt contributes to creating a new social norm.
“You have to have public support, not public confusion,” Viswanath says. If you live in an area where 80 percent of the population has been vaccinated and you walk into a room full of “I’m Vaccinated” pins, you might feel a lot better about taking off your mask.
It helps that a lot of the swag is cute, and it’s a low-key, affordable way to commemorate the beginning of the end of a life-changing year. I picked up an enamel pin from Etsy, where small, adorable vaccination merch has proliferated. The CDC has printable stickers, as well as digital resources for posting your vaccination status on social media. You might also want to check local businesses for apparel options too.
Address the Ambiguity
When shopping for pins or T-shirts, try to avoid sporting slogans that are scolding or aggressive.
“I don’t think being snarky helps,” says Susan Krenn, executive director for the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs. “It can be off-putting and just furthers the divides that we’re already feeling around masking and vaccination, and how politics has come into that.”
Krenn’s job is to work with governments and communities to encourage people to adopt healthy behaviors. During the Covid-19 pandemic, those behaviors included masking and vaccination.
“This timeline has been incredibly challenging, because things change so quickly,” Krenn says. “Even if it’s a year and a half old, it’s a new pandemic. We have to be flexible or adaptable as we move forward. The ambiguity makes all of this harder.”
It’s OK to err on the side of caution, Krenn says. There are still many settings where the mask mandate remains clear, such as public transportation, health care, and places where large groups of people congregate indoors, like churches. In more ambiguous areas, we’re all learning to navigate a respectful, comfortable language of consent. I’m vaccinated, are you? Do you feel comfortable taking off your mask, or do you feel comfortable if I do?
Whichever way you choose to talk about vaccination, stay respectful and remember that there are valid reasons why people are staying masked. Maybe they’re immunocompromised or they don’t want to risk infecting unvaccinated young children at home.
Take Your Time
Everyone I spoke to says there are many instances where they will continue wearing masks, especially in health care or crowded settings. Even as the CDC’s guidelines relax, wearing a mask doesn’t mean a person is unnecessarily paranoid or doesn’t believe in science.
“Mask wearing shouldn’t necessarily go away,” Krenn says. “Continued mask-wearing signals that even if I’m vaccinated, there may be people around us who aren’t. This is a preventative measure that we take for people who can’t get vaccinated. And the pandemic is not over. We’re in great shape from where we were a while back, but it’s not over.”