TORONTO—Sitting on her couch, her butt deepening the imprint formed by 13 months of pressure in the exact same spot on the cushions, Toronto resident Jessica opens up her laptop to check if she qualifies yet for the covid-19 vaccine. After scrolling through the list of medical conditions and the designated hotspot zip codes, she learns that she must continue to wait for her first dose.
With a sigh, she opens up Instagram and begins scrolling through vaccine selfie after vaccine selfie from her American friends, her jealousy intensifying with each smiling #modernababe and #pfizerpfriends post. The type of envy she’s feeling is relatively new, a product of the pandemic, much like the sensation of panic upon stepping outside and realizing you’ve forgotten your mask and disgust upon seeing a stranger’s nose exposed in public.
“We’re calling this new phenomenon Vaccine FOMO,” says Dr. John Johnson, a researcher at Stanford University. “Instead of missing out on plans like bar crawls or brunches, the fear is missing out on the immunity offered by the covid-19 vaccine—and then, by extension, the possibility of being able to attend plans. In places where vaccine rollout is slow, the fear is very much a reality.”
While temporarily distressing, Vaccine FOMO (otherwise known as VFOMO) is not life-threatening. Side-effects include starting wistfully out the window, hate-liking Instagram posts, and briefly considering taking a trip to Florida.
“I still don’t get how the American healthcare system pulled one over on us,” grumbled Jessica.
Dr. Johnson warns that even those who are partially vaccinated are still subject to Vaccine FOMO. New York City area woman Chelsea, who has only received her first Moderna shot, reports experiencing VFOMO when she sees her friends Insta story from inside restaurants or in groups of more than two people.
But there is one silver lining.
“At least it’s a nice change of pace from regular FOMO,” admits Chelsea. “Now, when I see all my friends hanging out without me, I know why I wasn’t invited.”
She clarifies, “Plus, not having to go through the internal battle of wanting to stay in vs. not wanting to miss out has actually done wonders for my mental health,” she says, before adding with a knowing nod, “I’m a Libra.”
When reached for comment, Chelsea’s friends clarified that she was not invited to their last outing at the park because she is, in fact, annoying.
“We thought she got Johnson & Johnson weeks ago,” admits her friend Sarah. “We just find the way she blames her problems on her zodiac sign extremely grating.”
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