People who opted to get the domestically produced Medigen COVID-19 vaccine have received the second dose, or are scheduled to receive the second dose soon.
Playing on the drugmaker’s Chinese-language name, Gaoduan (高端), which literally means “high-end,” some of those who opted for Medigen laughingly call themselves “high-enders” and say that they are headed for a “high-end lifestyle,” but another strange social phenomenon is happening at the same time.
With the start of the new school semester, some courses have reverted from remote learning to in-class teaching. During tea-break chats and even in the classroom, teachers and students can hardly avoid the topic of COVID-19 vaccinations.
During a graduate course in which I am a teaching assistant, the professor asked whether everyone was getting vaccinated. The students were keen to answer, but the strange thing was that, judging by the discussion, you would think that the only COVID-19 vaccines on offer in Taiwan were those made by Moderna, Pfizer and AstraZeneca. For some reason no one mentioned Medigen. You would think that the Taiwanese vaccine did not even exist.
In another class, I ventured to say that I had received the Medigen vaccine. That really set the cat among the pigeons. The whole class turned to look at me and exclaimed in unison: “You got the Medigen jab? How did you dare to do that?”
A little later, I shared the incident on social media, and a student immediately sent me a private message saying that he had also received the Medigen vaccine, but his fellow students questioned his choice so much that he did not dare to reveal it again.
In an article published online that garnered more than 5,000 likes, the writer started out by criticizing the price-gouging behavior of someone involved in a particular transaction, but finished by writing: “Why are you so stupid? Did you get the Medigen vaccine, or did it take you six years to get your college degree?”
Maybe the original poster thought this was funny, or maybe he was mocking people on purpose. Whichever it was, the wording clearly suggests that he thinks people who opted for the Medigen vaccine are not right in the head and do not behave normally.
Although some of the comments below the post said that the author should stick to the topic and not drag Medigen into it, other commenters mockingly retorted: “Is everyone who gets the Medigen jab so grouchy?”
The Medigen vaccine was thoroughly denigrated even before the government approved it, and now people who have received the vaccine are subjected to all kinds of verbal bullying and prejudice. I can only report what I saw on campus, but as it is often said that a campus is a microcosm of society, I believe that unkind words and attitudes toward Medigen vaccine recipients do not stop at the edge of the campus.
Why must we Medigen takers be looked at askance? Why must we be doubted, criticized and even silenced? Is getting the Medigen vaccine really something to be ashamed of?
The actions of some political parties, media and pundits who use smears and rumors to mislead the public and set social trends are not just a challenge for people’s independent thinking and media literacy. They also show how ideological manipulation has quietly launched a tide of prejudice against recipients of the Medigen vaccine.
This malicious fire has not just hurt the vaccine itself — it can also scorch those who have received it.
Lai Yu-ting is a doctoral student at National Tsing Hua University and a university lecturer.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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