RIO DE JANEIRO — Stela Schwenker had her visit to the vaccination site all planned out. She wore a sleeveless black dress so she wouldn’t have to bother with baring her arms. Phone in her hand, she knew the picture she wanted. The one she’d seen all over television and social media: Mask on. Shot going into arm. Vaccinated, finally.
Then came a hitch.
“The nurse said, ‘The shot’s in your butt,’ and I said, ‘My God,'” said Schwenker, 26. She ended up lifting her dress to get the vaccine. “I was thinking, ‘Why does everyone get in the arm, but I’m getting it in the bumbum?'”
Brazilians are not known for being bashful when it comes to their bumbums. The beaches are filled with thong-clad sunbathers. The country is home to the Brazilian butt lift, one of the world’s fastest-growing cosmetic surgeries. Now the Brazilian affinity for the bottom has extended even to the vaccination campaign. The southern city of Joinville, population 600,000, has decided not to vaccinate residents in the arms — how virtually everyone else has done it — butt . . . lower.
“I didn’t understand why almost no one in Joinville was posting vaccine photos,” editorial assistant Ana Siedschlag said in a tweet that went viral. “Until I found out that almost everyone (including me) WAS TAKING THE VACCINE IN THE BUNDA.”
All of the memes and jokes — culminating in national news reports and a CNN Brasil broadcaster struggling to keep a straight face — have sent Joinville city officials scrambling. They’ve been quick to clarify that, technically, people aren’t being vaccinated in the butt. They’re receiving it in the area right above it, an inch or two below the pants line, known as the ventrogluteal. This no man’s land is where Joinvillians have long received their vaccines, officials say.
City spokesman Thiago Boeing said officials aren’t allowing anything to fall between the cracks. Not safety and not vaccine efficacy.
“This has become a curiosity, and that’s fine,” he said. “But this is technically correct and not an error.”
He cited the national health ministry’s vaccine protocol on intramuscular vaccines, a grouping to which the coronavirus inoculations belong. It highlighted the ventrogluteal as one of the “best options” for an “alternative administration” of vaccines, noting reduced pain during the application. But few other Brazilian cities — if any — have taken the health ministry up on that option.
“A good vaccine is a vaccine in the arm,” has been a national refrain.
How about maybe, responded Joinville.
Joinville health-care workers have been told to prioritize the gluteal vaccines, Boeing said, but they aren’t mandatory. Residents can ask to receive their jabs in their arm. It’s not clear, however, how often people are being informed of their options. Residents say they’ve shown up expecting to get their shot in arm — only to find themselves lowering their pants.
“It’s very funny,” said Laryssa Aguiar, 23, a biomedical analyst. “But at the time, it was a fright.”
“I was like, ‘What?'” said Vitoria Maria Kruger. “Not in the arm?”
“I came out thinking if I was really vaccinated correctly, because every other state does it in the arm,” Schwenker said.
She still got her vaccine photograph for social media. She’s happy with it, even if it’s different from the one she wanted. It shows only her vaccine card, revealing neither arm, nor bumbum.