Swiping right on jabs: dating app adds Covid vaccine badges in Australia

Single Australians looking for sex or love will soon stand out from the competition if they’ve been vaccinated against Covid-19.

Dating app Bumble announced it will roll out a new feature this week enabling users in Australia and New Zealand to add a “vaccination badge” to their profile if they’ve received a Covid-19 jab. Competitor Tinder says it looks forward to “making [vaccine] badges available soon” in Australia too.

A Bumble representative says it will not independently verify the vaccination status of those who claim the badge, meaning the system will rely on user honesty. The dating app says it decided to launch the feature after a recent survey revealed a “45% increase in users asking potential dates if they had the vaccine or have Covid symptoms”.

It’s not just in Australia that dating apps are encouraging users to boast about their vaccination status. In the US, the White House recently partnered with Tinder, Hinge and OKCupid to give away premium features such as free “super likes” – which increase your chance of being noticed by a potential date – to users who set their vaccination status.

Last month the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care launched a similar initiative by teaming up with dating apps to offer users a range of perks, including free profile “boosts” if they add their vaccination status to their profile. Both schemes are aimed at promoting vaccine uptake in young people.

Currently, just 11% of Australians are fully vaccinated against Covid-19. In late June, all Australian adults under 40 were told by prime minister Scott Morrison they could get the AstraZeneca vaccine via their GPs. However the advice from the expert Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation is that the Pfizer jab is the preferred option for under-60s – and that vaccine remains in limited supply.

Australian online dating website RSVP says vaccine badges are something the company has been considering, but they will wait until more Australians have been immunised before bringing the feature in.

“The reason we haven’t pushed anything ahead is just looking at the amount of people that have access to vaccines,” CEO Dave Heysen explains. “So we don’t really want to discriminate when people don’t actually have access [to the vaccine] at this stage.

“We’ve thought about adding it in at some stage; we just want to make sure everyone’s on a level playing ground first.”

The addition of vaccine badges could make users feel comfortable about meeting up with dates in real life, says Dr Rosalie Gillett, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Queensland University of Technology, who has researched user safety on dating apps.

“As dating apps often encourage in-person interactions, users might feel safer meeting with people who say they have been vaccinated against Covid-19,” Gillett says.

Joanne Orlando, the author of Life Mode On, a book about navigating the digital world, agrees vaccination badges are “definitely a plus” when it comes to Covid safety. But the feature could also have another benefit: helping users match with those whose values align with their own.

“Vaccination badges give you a little bit more insight into the profile and person,” she says. “It gives you an idea of how they’re thinking about contributing to society, doing their part, and if [their vaccination status] is something they want everyone to know about and are proud about. It’s just another element to help you to consider whether or not this person is for you.”

Does that mean the badges could help socially conscious singles avoid matching with anti-vaxxers?

“That’s right, or if you are one, you’re not going to go for someone who’s got that stamp.” Orlando says. “When it comes to online dating, there’s such a limited amount of info straight up, so this kind of thing could really help someone.

“It just adds another dimension that we don’t normally get on dating app profiles.”


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