Before I explain the above, let me get a number out. More specifically, a date: 1798.
That’s the year Edward Kenner published the successful results of his inoculation of 22 individuals against smallpox (including subject #1, an eight-year-old boy), using samples of cowpox virus extracted from the scabby ulcers on the hands of English milkmaids.
This finding, which has saved the lives of untold tens of millions of people around the world, resulted in a bit of an etymological screw-up. Because today, when we speak of a vaccine, what we’re really uddering (sorry, “uttering”) is none other than the Latin word for “cow”.
That’s right. In 1798, Dr. Jenner published an article entitled “An Inquiry into the Causes and Effects of the Variolae Vaccinae” — and “Variolae Vaccinae”, or “ulcers of the cow”, is how we ended up with “vaccine”. And “vaccinated”, “vaccination”, etc.
[“Herd immunity” didn’t appear in the medical literature until 1993 — yes, it took almost two hundred years for someone to link “cow” and “herd”. ]
But that’s not the point of this story. The point of this story is: if you’re like me, and you’re used to thinking of vaccines as “protective” (as in, you’re not only not going to get smallpox, or measles, or tetanus, or rabies, you’re not going to pass it along) — then, like me, you’re probably wishing there was a word other than “vaccine” that we would use for the kind of vaccine that protects us from illness but doesn’t stop the spread of the pandemic.
Because, regardless of what side you’re on, and how well (or not) you believe the current crop of Covid-19 vaccines prevent us from getting sick, based on the data we have, there’s one thing we can all agree on: none of the Covid vaccines seem to prevent us from becoming carriers of Covid-19.
My suggestion? Ovinated — from the Latin for “sheep”. As in, “I just got ovinated.”
Or, “I just got my third dose of that new ovine from Germany, and the ovination didn’t hurt a bit.”
Like the Covid-19 virus, sheep are basically unstoppable when they decide to get together and head in a certain direction. But, like Covid-19, that direction can be adjusted. And everyone, except the outliers, ends up slightly better protected.
Ovine. I say, let’s give it a shot.
[Disclaimer: I’ve had three shots of the Pfizer ovine, and I feel very lucky— and happy to be living among the sheeple.]