To swipe left or to swipe right? Sure, it’s not a hifalutin question posed by Shakespeare, but as the nation embarks on a post-Covid summer of love (*strokes wood*), it’s one that many dating app users will be faced with as they search for potential hookups. For some, the answer could hinge on one detail: has your match been vaxxed?
This week, Covid vaccination bookings opened up to over 25s and, to incentivise young’uns to sign up, the government partnered with all your favourite dating apps to launch additional features for the vaccinated. Tinder, Bumble, Hinge and more are all involved, offering users in-app bonuses such as special vaccination badges and stickers that can be proudly displayed on profiles, and access to premium features like profile boots and “super likes”.
Bumble, for instance, has launched a new “Covid dating preferences” feature, that allows users to specify whether they’d like their date to wear a mask, social distance or only meet outdoors. Forget awkwardly asking your date to take three steps back as they lean in for a hug. Those details will have been ironed out before you even send that slick opener you’ve worked on for the past year and a half.
The inspiration behind these dating app partnerships? A recent YouGov poll found that 59 per cent of adults would either prefer to date someone who is vaccinated or would not date someone who isn’t vaccinated. That leaves just over a third of the population who would risk infection for the D (or, you know, just a casual date in the park).
For 30-year-old Naomi Bridgman, the question as to whether an unvaccinated date is worth the gamble is a no brainer. “I do personally prefer meeting people face-to-face when it comes to dating and, for that, I think it’s important to have features like Bumble’s vaccine badges and dating preferences because, obviously, you want to be comfortable while you’re dating,” she says.
Based in Sheffield, Bridgman works in social services, so her stance is as much about protecting those around her as it is herself. “Without sounding self-righteous about it, being a frontline worker during the pandemic has sort of shifted my personal opinions,” she says. “It’s not really about me, it’s about keeping everyone around me safe.”
But as we wait for a universal vaccine rollout, some see a potential vax dating gap as a logistical problem. “I think it’s great and people should take [the vaccine], but it’s hard to prove whether someone has been vaccinated or not, so I couldn’t say it’s a hard no to dating or sleeping with someone [who hasn’t been vaccinated],” says a 25-year-old woman from South London, who wishes to remain anonymous. While she says that she would ask a date if they’ve been vaccinated as “a good get-to-know-you” question, this single is more concerned about whether a date has recently visited a sexual health clinic. “I believe that someone who doesn’t care about their sexual health is unlikely to care about their overall health, period.”
There are ethical implications to choosing your date based on their vaccine status, too. As 31-year-old freelance PR consultant, Billie Dee, points out, vax-checking dates could lead to discrimination. “My biggest fear with the vaccine is that it could lead to the exclusion of certain people. It’s well talked about how minority ethnic people are more hesitant to take up the vaccine, as well as people with mental illness,” she says. “So what, we should just be excluded from dating and events? That just makes no sense to me. I think it’s really scary.”
As the UK gradually relaxes Covid restrictions, like Bridgman, Dee’s main safety concerns around dating are about other people she may come into contact with. “The only thing that does worry me is the fact that I haven’t seen my grandfather for a year and a half. If I were going on a date, I couldn’t just go and see him,” she says. But there are ways around this problem. “I’d have to self-isolate and take tests [before I visit my grandfather]. It’s inconvenient, but it’s not any more inconvenient than the last year has been.”
For some, specifying whether you’d like a date to be vaccinated or obey social distancing is no different from putting other preferences on a dating profile, such as religious beliefs or if a person wants children. In fact, having this information available instantly might even help users avoid dating people with conflicting views.
“I don’t mind if someone hasn’t got the vaccine, because a lot of people haven’t got it yet,” says an anonymous 35-year-old SEO account manager. “But if they refused to get a vaccine? Unless there’s a medical reason, I’ll wonder why. Maybe they believe in conspiracy theories, maybe they’re anti-vax. I really don’t want to get involved with someone like that, who’s saying things that are not based on facts.”
Bridgman agrees. “I do think that even just wanting to get vaccinated when you can is an important sign to see if someone sort of aligns with your own views,” she says. “You generally bond with people who’ve got sort of similar values to yourself.”
And while some remain sceptical about the new vaccine and Covid safety features on dating apps, Bridgman has already been putting them to the test via Bumble. “It has really helped me. The interesting thing about dating at the moment is that there’s this new layer of asking, ‘What are you comfortable with? What are your Covid rules?’” she says. “Having these features straightaway means you already know the parameters.”
As with all dating conundrums, the question as to whether you should date or sleep with someone who hasn’t been vaccinated boils down to personal preferences. Yes, you should get the vaccine. Yes, you should be able to go out and enjoy yourself on a date safely. But things might not happen in that order. Ultimately, it comes down to respecting other people’s preferences and boundaries.
Get the jab, get it on.