Signs of the times: Who makes the ‘I Got Vaccinated!’ stickers?

March 3, 2021

Excitement and pride can be contagious. Just as Americans have become accustomed to showing off their I Voted! stickers after leaving the polls on Election Day, getting a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine now comes with a similar rite of passage: Proudly affixing an I Got Vaccinated! sticker to your jacket or shirt.

The stickers are a key component of an urgen, nationwide public health campaign. The first version came out of the Centers for Disease Control and now many municipalities and states are making their own—not only to spread joy, but to communicate message that vaccines are safe, accessible, and to signal a potential end to the pandemic, Bustle reports.

Major Holli Nelson—a member of the National Guard and of the communications team for West Virginia’s interagency COVID task force—designed custom West Virginia stickers after seeing the version from the CDC. “‘I Voted’ stickers [show] that people were so proud to have participated in democracy,” recalls Nelson. “So we thought, ‘How about we show off being proud to be vaccinated?’” She and her colleague Dr. Lisa Costello, a pediatrician, rolled out the design in December.

For Nelson, it was critical that her state’s COVID vaccine stickers automatically identify its wearers as West Virginians. “We are a people that rally behind one another to get through the toughest of times — that’s what defines us as a state and those are the values that we carry. We really needed to include that on there so people outside of the state would know that.” She incorporated the state’s colors, blue and gold, an outline of the state map, and the #westvirginiastrong hashtag the National Guard had been using to spread COVID-related information since the pandemic’s start.

In New York City, the Department of Health took a more corporate approach, selecting a winning sticker design from concepts requested from the department’s contracted ad agencies. The stickers are just part of a suite of promotional materials, ranging from billboards to TV ads, supporting the city’s vaccination campaign.

A department spokesperson tells Bustle that New Yorkers had been asking for stickers in particular: “We need our messages and excitement for the vaccine to be more contagious than the virus itself.”

Indeed, while the CDC produced its own I Got My COVID-19 Vaccine! sticker template; it’s up to individual municipalities and vaccine-administering jurisdictions to design, print, and distribute their own stickers, which means you’re not necessarily guaranteed to get one on your vaccination day.

Much like how “I Voted” stickers come from each state, so do vaccine administration plans, which include promotional materials like stickers.

For West Virginia’s original sticker run, rushed to ensure West Virginia state leadership could sport them after their own live TV vaccination, Nelson and Costello printed them themselves at Staples for less than $200. Even now, the two estimate that the state has spent no more than a “couple thousand dollars” on their sticker production and distribution efforts.

“The cost has been minimal compared to the impact,” Nelson says of the countless sticker-bedecked vaxxies she’s seen on social media. Given West Virginia’s notably successful vaccine rollout program, stickers that make people smile feel like one small but well-earned victory lap.

In New York City, the city has invested approximately $5 million into their NYC Vaccine for All campaigns, which includes stickers as well as newspaper, TV, and streaming ad placements in 15 languages, the spokesperson confirms.

At least anecdotally, the investment pays off, if just in good vibes. “When I [hear] pharmacists saying, ‘Don’t forget your sticker!’ at vaccine clinics, people are so happy,” says Nelson. “The people doing the administration of the vaccine are doing so much to make people feel a part of the solution. It’s all these community partners, even at the lowest level, who really drive this home.”

“When I see women I know from church in my hometown posting pictures of their stickers getting their vaccines in the high school gym I used to play basketball in — I see people with a sense of hope after a really long time.”

Research contact: @bustle

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