Only Hot People Get Pfizer: Group Boundaries and Vaccines


Willow G. Mullins (Washington University in St. Louis)

Public health crises often reveal tensions already extant in a culture surrounding group boundaries. Such anxieties about who "belongs" where and whether they might be contaminated are well documented in both fictional representations of pandemics, like the film Contagion, and in real cases, like the scapegoating of Mary Mallon. Yet COVID has revealed that such group boundary maintenance is also performed around the solutions to the pandemic. As different countries and pharmaceutical corporations have developed competing vaccines, a vernacular ranking of those vaccines has emerged, ranging from jokes and memes about Team Moderna vs. Team Pfizer to outright distrust of the Sinovac and Sputnik vaccines. Here, I question how such boundary maintenance can impact larger public health goals. 

Part of 14-06 Crisis Folklore: Vernacular Responses to COVID-19 and Public Health, Monday, October 18, 2:15 pm–3:45 pm