“We have finally found the one thing that makes us all more attractive: a vaccination,” Andy Slavitt, the White House’s senior adviser on the nation’s covid-19 response, told reporters. Other health officials smiled in the background as Slavitt appeared to try to stifle a chuckle while making his unorthodox plea.
The government’s partnership with the dating sites — Tinder, Bumble, Match.com, Hinge, BLK, Plenty of Fish, OkCupid, Chispa and Badoo — is meant to target young people, who tend to be more hesitant to get vaccinated than older adults. The nine sites combined reach more than 50 million people in the United States, Slavitt said.
In addition to profile badges for users to show their vaccination status and filters to match only with other vaccinated people, the apps also will help people find places to get their shots. One of the sites, OkCupid, said this week that people who already mention their vaccination status in their profiles are 14 percent more likely to get a match.
Slavitt framed the project as one the dating sites initiated with the White House’s support. The move is part of a larger push by the Biden administration for 70 percent of U.S. adults to get at least one vaccine dose by July 4. About 60 percent of adults have crossed that threshold so far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Interest in vaccination has stalled.
But some online daters and others involved in the industry said they doubted that the option to add a vaccination sticker on Tinder or Bumble was going to move the needle for many people. Daters choosing not to get vaccinated are likely to live around others who feel similarly, eliminating pressure from their dating pools’ profiles to get the shots, said Meredith Golden, a dating expert and founder of the Darma dating app.
In places with high vaccine uptake, indicating vaccination status tended to make a person more desirable on dating sites in the months when demand outpaced supply. Now, Golden said, most people in high immunization areas assume others are vaccinated and no longer mention their inoculations when they make new profiles.
Golden said the free premium features, like “boosts” that enable more people to see a profile, also probably will not make a dent in vaccine-hesitant people’s desire for the shots. She added that some people lie on dating apps and might not be honest about their vaccination status. The dating sites do not plan to verify the self-reported information.
But Golden said the promotion still seemed worth a try.
“In hundreds of people, maybe two are swayed just because they didn’t really think about the fact that it could impact them in their dating efficiency or success,” she said.
Some dating-app users signaled ambivalence to the new features. Carly, a 23-year-old New York resident, said she’s been using Hinge and Bumble to meet potential love interests during the pandemic, especially when bars and clubs were largely closed.
Carly, who spoke to the The Washington Post on the condition that her last name not be used because of the topic’s sensitivity, said she got a coronavirus vaccine but feels indifferent toward the new way to indicate that fact on her dating profiles. Her immunization status feels too personal to put on her page, she said, but she’s honest with other daters who ask about it.
While Carly said she expects plenty of people to use the stickers — especially because many daters already mention their vaccination status in their profiles — she doesn’t think the new features will inspire many vaccinations.
“Especially with New York coming back to life now and bars opening up and stuff,” she said, “I don’t think it will make people want to take the extra step and go get vaccinated if they’re not.”
Bryan L., a 47-year-old dater in Raleigh, N.C., has been using Bumble and Tinder to talk with women over the past year while avoiding in-person meetups. Bryan, who also spoke on the condition that his full last name not be revealed due to the topic’s sensitivity, agreed with others that the new sticker is unlikely to create a surge of vaccine demand but said he plans to use the feature on his own profile. He said he wants people to see that he got the shots, and he wants to know whether his potential romantic partners also did.
“It kind of gives me a little bit of a mind-set of the other person,” Bryan said. “So if they’re not vaccinated, why aren’t they vaccinated? If they don’t have a badge, those will be some of the early questions.”
Lisa Bonos contributed to this report.