After getting the COVID vaccine, you may have felt the urge to shout from the rooftops that you're officially ready for hot vax summer — or at least tell the world about it via an Instagram or a Facebook post. Well, some people are taking it one step further… ok maybe a few steps further.
People have been getting COVID vaccine tattoos to show everyone they're vaxxed, including designs such as bandages over the spot on their arm where they got jabbed or the date they were vaccinated along with the name of the brand (#pfizergang). One person even got their entire vaccine card printed on their arm. (Related: Why Some People Are Choosing Not to Get Vaccinated)
As a healthcare workout who's been working on the frontlines of COVID-19 for the last year, Michael Richardson, M.D., a One Medical provider, is delighted people are using tattoos to commemorate their vaccines. "Receiving a COVID-19 vaccine is certainly cause for celebration as it's a huge step forward in helping us move beyond the pandemic and reclaim what we have lost in the past year," he says, joking that, "I think I'll need to consider prescribing tattoos now for my patients who finished getting vaccinated."
Still — getting your vax card inked on your arm seems pretty wild, right? Jeff Walker, artist at Bearcat Tattoo Gallery in San Diego, is the master behind the now-viral vaccine card tattoo. When the client asked to get their vax card tattooed on their arm, Walker said thought it was pretty funny. "Obviously this is kind of a joke tattoo, and while I think it's important that people get vaccinations of all kinds, a joke nonetheless," he says. "I think getting a tattoo like that is a bit extreme, unless you goal is to get free drinks at the bar for the next few weeks, showing other patrons your new ink." (Related: United Is Giving Away Free Flights to Vaccinated Passengers)
This was Walker's first request for a COVID-19 related tattoo. "The fact that he wanted the vaccine card copied exactly as it is, same size, onto skin sounded like a fun challenge," he says. The letters were so small, he had to do most of the tattoo freehanded. But does this particular tattoo pose any sort of privacy risk? "As a physician, I respect and love the dedication to public health if someone is thinking about having their vaccine card tattooed on their body; however, I would not recommend it," says Dr. Richardson, since having that sort of personal information visible on your body could put you at risk for identity theft.
Whether you're hoping to get inked to celebrate your vax or just want a new tat regardless, you might be wondering: Is it safe to get a tattoo after a COVID-19 vaccine? Dr. Richardson says there's no known medically indicated wait time for getting a tattoo after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. "That said, I recommend waiting two weeks after finishing your vaccine course before getting a tattoo as it gives you a reasonable buffer to observe any side effects from the vaccine and recover from them before stressing your body with some new ink," says Dr. Richardson. (It takes that long for you to build immunity and be protected from the virus anyway, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)
Dr. Richardson offers similar advice if you've just gotten a tattoo but now want to get vaccinated: There's likely no medical reason you need to wait, but giving your body some breathing time between the two isn't a bad idea. That said, "Getting a COVID vaccine can be literally life-saving, so I don't recommend waiting very long to get your shot," he says. (Fun fact: one 2016 study published in the American Journal of Human Biology found that tattoos may actually strengthen your immune system.)
Walker says he doesn't want to do anymore COVID-19 related tattoos. "It was a fun one-time thing, and it got a lot of attention, but it doesn't interest me," he says. "I normally make tattoos that are more so artwork." That said, it seems like people are asking for them — and others are going a more creative route. Tattoo artist @Neithernour, shared some COVID-19 tattoo designs on Instagram with the caption, "I was told by @corbiecrowdesigns that folks were wanting to commemorate their coronavirus vaccines. And why not? These shots save lives and change the world."
And you can't blame people for wanting to make the most out of a crazy time. Now that COVID-19 cases plummeting in the U.S., some people are using tattoos as a source of levity. (Related: How Actress Lily Collins Uses Her Tattoos for Motivation)
Tattoo artist, @emmajrage posted her COVID-19 tattoo designs on her Instagram with the caption, "I'm trying to use art and humor to cope with the negativity and panic surrounding the situation." Her art includes toilet paper and hand sanitizer bottle with "100% panic" written on it, as well as a syringe filled with what looks to be beer (hi, Corona) stuck through a lime wedge. (Related: How to Cope with Health Anxiety During COVID and Beyond)
When asked why he thinks people are getting COVID-19 tattoos, Walker says, "My best guess would be something to memorialize growth and perseverance… or perhaps simply for the shock on another's face."
The information in this story is accurate as of press time. As updates about coronavirus COVID-19 continue to evolve, it's possible that some information and recommendations in this story have changed since initial publication. We encourage you to check in regularly with resources such as the CDC, the WHO, and your local public health department for the most up-to-date data and recommendations.