How Covid vaccines might change the dating game

Safe dating takes on new meaning with the Covid-19 vaccine rollout.

(CNN)Attentive lover. Passionate about work. Empathy in spades. Facial hair.

For months, Sara Jablow has sought a hard-to-find combination of personality traits in prospective boyfriends. Now, however, after nearly a year of the Covid-19 pandemic, one elusive characteristic is beginning to transcend all others for her: vaccination status.
It's not that Jablow is picky; the 34-year-old winemaker from Napa, California, has been on about a half dozen Zoom dates and several in-real-life dates since she ended her last long-term relationship in June. This time around, however, the entire search is different; she received her first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in late January, and she's looking for a partner who is either vaccinated or interested in getting vaccinated soon.
"It's all about the vaccine for me now," said Jablow, who was vaccinated early because of her job in California's agriculture industry. "I'm pretty straightforward about it: I believe in science, and if someone isn't interested (in the vaccine) or they don't believe in (vaccines in general), I'm done."
    Sara Jablow, of Napa, California, would like to date someone who has received or is about to receive the Covid-19 vaccine. She is shown at her workplace.
    Jablow certainly isn't the only vaccinated single person looking for safer dating these days.
    Matchmakers have reported seeing intense demand for partners who have received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna shots. Dating sites have recorded dramatic upticks in mentions of the word vaccine. Even if you eavesdrop on masked and distanced hangouts at public parks, it seems everyone is desperately seeking someone who has gotten injected.
    "Getting vaccinated or being open to getting it is the hottest thing you could do right now," said Michael Kaye, spokesperson for the dating site OKCupid.
    OKCupid users view vaccines as the "light at the end of the tunnel," Kaye said.
    "It's not only good for your health and safety to be open to getting the vaccine, but it's good for your dating life as well."

    Demand on the rise

    The recent spikes in demand make perfect sense. As health care systems administer dose after dose of Covid vaccines — as of February 8, more than 42 million doses have been administered in the US — those who get vaccinated are far less likely to fall ill with Covid-19.
    No, getting the shots isn't a magic bullet; researchers currently are trying to determine the extent to which vaccine recipients can transmit the virus. But their efficacy rates are high. Vaccination clearly has benefits, and in the world of dating, those benefits are in high demand.
    Exactly how much interest is vaccination status generating these days? That depends on whom you ask for information.
    At OKCupid, Kaye said he saw a 25% increase in mentions of "vaccine" on site profiles over the month of January, and a 63% increase between November and January. He added that users who answer "Yes" to a standard profile question, "Will you get the Covid-19 vaccine?" are being "liked" at a rate of up to 25% higher than those who answer "No" or choose not to answer.
    Other dating sites reported even more encouraging stats.
    Dating site Tinder recorded an astronomical 258% increase in profile mentions of the word "vaccine" between September and December of last year, said Dana Balch, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles-based company.
    "What this tells me is that the notion of becoming immune to the virus has sparked conversation around a cultural moment that's on everyone's mind," she said. "We expect interest (in vaccines) only to grow."
    Admittedly, at this stage of vaccine rollout, these numbers can be a bit skewed. Most of the people who have been vaccinated are health care professionals, first responders, essential workers and people over the ages of 65 or 70. In most of these cases, people are likely too busy or anxious to prioritize dating right now.
    Bela Gandhi, dating coach and founder of Smart Dating Academy, a matchmaking service in Chicago, said that as more people get vaccines and share photos of themselves getting shots on social media, the more important vaccination status will become.