ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Needles, Blood, and Data

The Case of COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects

That COVID-19 has been difficult on gender minorities has been well-documented. Through a combination of abandonment by the state, reluctance towards women’s health beyond their reproductive capacity, and an epistemological gap at the heart of modern medicine, it is ensured that the effects of vaccines on women’s menstrual cycles remain ignored.

Towards the end of August 2021, I came across an article on Spectator where a columnist reported that her menstrual cycle was derailed after taking the COVID-19 jab. Like long COVID-19, whose feminisation is reminiscent of the time when women were labelled hysterical for their illnesses (Löwy 2021), the side effects of the vaccine on cycling bodies has raised an imp­ortant feminist debate. The inclusion of long COVID-19 in clinical registers called for valuing patient knowledge and expertise in creating evidence about the pandemic (Callard and Perego 2021).

This was not the first time I had heard of this side effect; it certainly was not the last. I had come across similar accounts from other menstruators on social ­media. Despite the geographical and cultural distance between the columnist in the United Kingdom (UK) and me, the persons reporting this issue had one thing in common—they conformed to the cultural model of the ideal citizen as digitally literate and self-advocating (Lazar et al 2015). They are acutely aware of the Western medical science behind menstruation, and they track their cycles on their own through a diary or a mobile application. They are preserving their medical autonomy by acce­ssing a technology of self-care and eliminating a professional “other” from the equation (Smith 2021). Yet there is one difference—while advanced industrial societies are amid a conversation over the ethical aspects of data collection from users of tracking technologies, in India, only 30% of women have access to mobile internet owing to low levels of digital literacy (Vardhan 2021).

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Updated On : 12th Sep, 2022
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