Health Canada has announced that our vaccines have cast off the shackles of the parent companies and are leaving home with names of their own. Normally one is named at birth — it’s a bit cultish to leave it till now — but still.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will now be named Comirnaty. The Moderna vaccine will be SpikeVax. And the AstraZeneca vaccine will be Vaxzevria, which sounds more like the virus than the vaccine but maybe that’s just me.
Those are bad brand names. “Comirnaty” is hard to pronounce, probably something resembling “community,” a word I have been sick of for a decade because it refers to the most unlikely people: the cyclists-who-don’t-observe-stop-signs community; the oat milk community; the Ponzi scheme victim community.
It sounds like “Comintern,” the international Communist organization founded in Moscow in 1919. Is it pronounced the way you pronounce Almaty, the city in Kazakhstan, like “Almahtee”? Or “Come in, matey,” which is what a wee man with a beard says to you when you hear fiddle music coming out of his yurt. Time for a snout, he’ll say.
I would pronounce it “Corm-inaty,” which sounds like one of the new herbicides Monsanto is desperately trying to invent to stay six weeks ahead of the new weeds that are devastating the U.S. corn crop and swelling the panic glands of farmers everywhere.
Nobody’s going to remember to ask a pharmacist for “SpikeVax.” They’ll try HotWax or Nickatnight. SpikeYouKnowThatFilmDirectorGuy. Shotglass. WetVac. Also, SpikeVax is trying too hard. Moderna wants to be down with the kids.
I suspect that Big Pharma, the people we used to hate, dread the day patents expire, letting drugs move into generic world. So they fiddle a bit with the drug — oh look, it’s pink now — and give it a new name under a fresh patent.
As the variants advance toward us, will they fiddle with the COVID-19 vaccines and rename them each time? As in SpikeVax II, or Spikevaxy, or SpikeVax: The Hink Returns.
I was delaying deploring my beloved AstraZeneca vaccine, which the company — I can’t stand the company — is calling Vaxzevria. It sounds like what you get when you ask for directions at rural gas stations, a blizzard of pointing and instructions about side roads, not one word of which you retain.
Is the Z silent? (By the way, does one pronounce the “f” in Pfizer?) Do I say Vax-Zevria or Vax-evria? Vaxotomy? A decade ago, there was an exciting new shingles vaccine (we were easily entranced in those days) called Shingrix. Shin-grix? Shing-rix?
But Vaxzevria takes the cake. I think drug branding stylists (it’s a huge industry) went with Vax and then figured it would work for “evria” variant that would come along. It’s a pun, perhaps.
Now my readers — alert people who are very dear to me — will have no problem with these names. But shouldn’t drug companies aim the product more at the unvaccinated? Maybe call it the Localyokel, a big demographic in the States.
Apropos of that, Pfizer-BioNTech’s Comirnaty should be named Count Chocula, because children and dim people eat that. Or Trix. Yeah, call it Trix.
Moderna’s SpikeVax should be VaxFab, which sounds like a new pre-wash product for stubborn stains — and isn’t the pandemic all about hygiene anyway? Maybe put in a friendly corporate call and borrow a name. Call it Oxi-Clean. Or Magic Eraser. CerealThat covers cereal and cleanser. Next up, ringworm medication. Or healthy vegetables, spelled slightly wrong. Tomaytie. Celerius. Egplantil.
In any event, Slightly Less Big Pharma — the vaccine upstarts — are working on drugs as yet unheard of. I await my April 2023 booster shot and my January 2025 re-booster.
Britain has a new one called the Farthing. It costs a bob or two, with change for a hen, but the experience itself is prewar Britain as Boris prefers. Dress for the occasion in a flat cap and something tweedy. Drink a stout (did I mention vaccine stations are now in pubs?), light the Farthing and inhale.
There are other English vaccines. Should I get the Embargo? The Butty Internodal? Maybe. But I’m hearing good things about the Collapsica. Care for a cider?
Heather Mallick is a Toronto-based columnist covering current affairs for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @HeatherMallick