It’s not an expertly photoshopped joke, nor are your eyes deceiving you; the green stickers relaying vaccination status in Low German are real, and available to those getting a COVID-19 shot in Southern Manitoba to sport post-jab and snap a photo with.
As the vaccine rollout across the country increases and Canadians are eager to be inoculated, a new trend is emerging: vaccine sticker selfies.
Photos with thumbs up and smiles accompanied by the now-familiar "I’m COVID-19 vaccinated" stickers are quickly overtaking social media channels, even with challenges on who can sport their sticker the best. The circular decals, available in English and French, have now expanded to accommodate a third language: Plattdeutsch.
Andrew Unger, the brain behind the satirical website the Daily Bonnet which pokes harmless fun at Mennonites is also the one to take credit for introducing the idea to the province and bringing it to life.
To Unger, the idea seemed obvious.
"I just saw the English stickers and the French stickers and everyone was posting photos of themselves with those stickers. And then it just dawned on me that there should be Low German ones," Unger said.
After connecting with the province’s vaccine task force suggesting the idea and getting a positive response, a mere few weeks later 1,000 of the vaccine stickers were printed and ready to ship to the Morden and Steinbach supersites.
"It’s fun, it's unexpected," Unger said. "We don't see Low German written very much anywhere, so to have these official government stickers is a novelty in a good way."
While the stickers were intended to be light-hearted and drum up conversation in the Mennonite community about getting vaccinated, the narrative has quickly shifted to accessibility and inclusion in public health messaging. Unger said while offering stickers in one’s mother tongue won’t exclusively increase vaccination rates, it’s part of a larger community effort to start conversations and relay information and about COVID-19 vaccines.
With low uptake numbers in some parts of Southern Manitoba the province sees offering the Low German stickers as a way further their reach in vaccination efforts.
"In discussions with community members and leaders, offering the "I’m Vaccinated!" sticker in Low German was identified as one way we might be able to encourage and recognize people who’ve chosen to get the vaccine," a provincial spokesperson said in a statement to The Carillon.
"We hope it encourages local conversations and enthusiasm for the vaccine so people feel included and represented, while we continue to support the community to encourage vaccine confidence and uptake."
The province noted that while 1,000 of the stickers were printed, more will be circulated in Morden and Steinbach if the demand calls for it.
Unger said providing the stickers brings vaccination efforts to a grassroots level, a necessary step when addressing any sort of hesitancy, pandemic or otherwise.
"It's not the government telling you to do something; your fellow community members, your friends, your neighbors, your relatives are the ones wearing the stickers. I think people are more responsive and more receptive to having conversations with fellow community members," he said.
"Plus, it’s more fun than attending a meeting."
While the stickers did not come because of an article on the Daily Bonnet, the author and SRSS teacher said they may make an appearance in a future story. Unger will also be releasing a collection of Daily Bonnet excerpts by way of a book this upcoming fall.
"I do think humor has a role in this thing. I think that the stickers even have a role in sort of normalizing it. Like, ‘hey, I'm a Mennonite and I speak Low German, and I'm getting the vaccine.’"