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Coronavirus

Swipe Vax: Dating Apps Are The New Battleground Of Vaccination Divide

A Swiss-German anti-vax dating app is the latest tool for COVID-19 skeptics. As the pandemic becomes increasingly politicized around the world, will it permanently change how and who we date?

Swipe Vax: Dating Apps Are The New Battleground Of Vaccination Divide

The app “Impffrei: Love” (“Love Without The Vaccine") has reportedly registered some 10,000 unvaccinated users

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

People usually turn to dating applications for a shot at love, but a new Swiss-German platform hopes to connect those who refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and are frustrated by European health passes that limit activities (including a romantic dinner date) for the un-jabbed.

The app, called “Impffrei: Love” (“Love Without The Vaccine"), has reportedly registered some 10,000 unvaccinated users aged 20 to 50, who claim they are sick (not literally) of how the pandemic has impacted their personal liberty, reports Berlin-based magazine Cicero.


Of course, the app's terms and conditions have a disclaimer that Impffrei: Love holds no responsibility if you get COVID from a date. The app might seem like a publicity stunt or just the latest sign of how deeply divided society has become on the issue.

Love can conquer all, right? Well, when it comes to vaccines, the personal has clearly become political. For some, vaccination status is enough to swipe right or left, as it reveals much about someone's social and political beliefs.


Flaunting your jab status

While debates about vaccination are playing out across a range of media, there's a particular twist when it comes to online dating. This form of algorithm-based matchmaking has gained popularity during a time when people can’t meet in person. Apps provide a way for singles to screen potential partners to make sure they’re worth taking the risk of meeting in person. Vaccination status has become a key component of someone’s dating profile in the same way they can list their interests, education and what they’re looking for in a partner.

On this note, American-based dating apps like Tinder and Bumble now allow users to indicate if they’ve been vaccinated. In the U.S. the initiative was actually started by the White House as a push to get more people protected against COVID-19, particularly younger demographics with lower vaccination rates.

The British government also launched a similar program with vaccine stickers to share vaccination status. More creatively, the dating app BLK, which caters to the Black community, collaborated with rappers Juvenile, Mannie Fresh and Mia X to release a vaccination anthem called “Vax That Thang Up.”

At an anti-vaccine protest in Munich

Sachelle Babbar/ZUMA

A broader conversation about health and mating

On a positive note, being open about vaccination is part of a larger discussion about the role dating apps play in disclosing health statues and removing stigmas around sexually transmitted infections. Many apps aimed at the LGBTQ+ community, such as Grindr, are leading the way in making users feel comfortable sharing their testing practices and providing public health information, as well as being an outlet for contact tracing.

It’s become a lot more normalized in the queer world to share that information.

As Jen Hecht, senior director of Building Healthy Online Communities, told The Conversation, “One of the main factors is that you have generations of gay men who have lived through the AIDS crisis. That took a toll, but it also became part of their identity. It’s become a lot more normalized in the queer world to share that information.”

Two years into the pandemic, there's still no end in sight. It's clear that COVID-19 will have long-lasting effects, on everything from how we work to how we travel to how — and with whom — we date. And mate.

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Society

How India’s Women Are Fighting Air Pollution — And The Patriarchy

India is one of the world's worst countries for air pollution, with women more likely to be affected by the problem than men. Now, experts and activists are fighting to reframe pollution as a gendered health crisis.

A woman walking through dense fog in New Delhi

*Saumya Kalia

MUMBAI In New Delhi, a city that has topped urban air-pollution charts in recent years, Shakuntala describes a discomfort that has become too familiar. Surrounded by bricks and austere buildings, she tells an interviewer: "The eyes burn and it becomes difficult to breathe". She is referring to the noxious fumes she routinely breathes as a construction worker.

Like Shakuntala, women’s experiences of polluted air fill every corner of their lives – inside homes, in parks and markets, on the way to work. Ambient air in most districts in India has never been worse than it is today. As many as 1.67 million people in the country die prematurely due to polluted air. It is India’s second largest health risk after malnutrition.

This risk of exposure to air pollution is compounded for women. Their experiences of toxic air are more frequent and often more hazardous. Yet “policies around air quality have not yet adequately taken into account gender or other factors that might influence people’s health,” Pallavi Pant, a senior scientist at the Health Effects Institute, a nonprofit in the U.S., told The Wire Science.

“It’s unacceptable that the biggest burden [rests on] those who can least bear it,” Sherebanu Frosh, an activist, added. People like her are building a unique resistance within India.

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