Sticker Shock!

Rick Lesaar
5 min readMar 4, 2021

After receiving my first COVID shot here in Washington, DC, I was given a small slip of paper containing a URL to sign up for my second shot and the sticker pictured above. Let’s talk about that sticker.

But why? After all, it was just a small and insignificant handout. Why give it any attention at all? Because public health communications’ effect is cumulative and messages get through when they are repeated in multiple formats. So every such communication –even a sticker– reinforces others and all work in concert to build awareness and change behavior.

What’s the Purpose?

The purpose of the sticker is probably 95% to encourage others to get vaccinated and maybe 5% to let the wearer express some pride in having done so. Much like the ubiquitous “I Voted” stickers, these are outward-facing, meant to get others to do what the wearer has already done.

What’s the Message?

“I VACCINATED” is an odd construction, because except for a very small number of healthcare workers, no one gives themselves a vaccine. The phrase is simply not one you’re ever likely to hear someone say. On the other hand, “I got the vaccine” is much more natural, where “got” incorporates both “I took action to do something” and “I was given something.” In addition, “I got the vaccine” needs an exclamation mark. This statement should be a proud declaration, expressing a sense of excitement. But because the message is meant to get others to act, “I got the vaccine!” should be coupled with an exhortation for others to do the same. For example, “I got the vaccine! –now you!” or “I got the vaccine!” paired with “Now it’s your turn!”

Design Aside: Phrases in all caps are generally harder to read than text in upper-/lowercase. “I VACCINATED” will not be as quickly read and understood as “I vaccinated” or “I Vaccinated.”

Why the Hashtag?

Hashtags typically identify the topic of a photograph or a blogpost. They’re a way to find related content. Enter #hamburgers on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram and you’ll find everyone else who used that hashtag and had something to say about, or pictures of, hamburgers. So what about the hashtag on DC’s sticker, “#GetVaccinated”? (The “DC” after the space is not part of the hashtag.) After…

Rick Lesaar

Author of on the intersection of health and communications. Get in touch at