It was a screenshot from a 75-slide presentation sent to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website, which was shared with her by a friend who attended a recent emergency authorization meeting for the vaccine.
The image contained a thin black line, surrounded by strong gray shadow rising toward the top of the graph.
None of that sounds so funny. However, the image looked conspicuous as an anatomical part that could not be repeated in a family newspaper. It was not lost on Marcus or the hundreds of commentators with doubles ready.
“The J&J vaccine is rising for the occasion,”
Within a few hours, the post had been shared more than 6,000 times and tipped over 30,000 “likes”. Hundreds of people began to weigh in and make their own bright comments about what the picture looked like exactly. You can read all the answers here (be warned, many are NSFW).
Marcus was reached by phone and said that since everyone has been talking about COVID-19 and vaccines for several months in a row and the news has been relentlessly gloomy, she would lighten people’s breath.
“People are struggling right now and I think people need to laugh. That was really my only intention, ”she said. “I think people love a good pun.”
But the answer, she said, was a little surprising.
“I had not really predicted that,” Marcus said. “I can not really follow the answer. But it looks like a pun. ”
Her tweet had an unexpected benefit, as many commentators noted. By using a bad joke to convey important information about the effectiveness of the latest vaccine, it could be increased people’s confidence to get the shot.
“You’re laughing,” one person tweeted, “but I claim this chart reaches more people who need to see it than a chart that doesn’t look like that!”
Another person said it was a smart way to promotion the vaccine, while a third welcomed the use of humor in a public health message.
Marcus’ research focuses primarily on HIV. But during the pandemic, she wrote about “the importance of a harm-taking approach to preventing coronavirus transmission with experience from the HIV epidemic,” according to the Harvard Medical School website.
Marcus said her tweet was only meant to bring a little levity to a dark time. But if the graph helps spread information about getting vaccinated and draws attention to the “very impressive data,” it’s a win-win, she said.
“The more people who see the amazing data on these vaccines, the better,” she said, “and I’m happy to do my little part.”
It is not to small.
Steve Annear is on the hunt for stories so weird or unconventional that you will bring them up at dinner parties. Have you seen anything you would like answered? A giant door? Or maybe one cemetery of rocking horses, a strange stone marker on an island, or old trophies under a bridge? Let us know by reaching out.
Steve Annear can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.