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‘Vax’ Is Oxford’s 2021 Word of the Year

It was only decades later, according to Oxford’s report on its research, that “vaccine” came to be used for inoculation against other diseases. Curiously, while the shortened form “vax” did not appear until the 1980s, the term “anti-vax” — spelled “anti-vacks” — appeared early.

“The Anti-Vacks are assailing me … with all the force they can muster in the newspapers,” Jenner himself wrote in an 1812 letter.

In our own time, “vax” — unlike “box,” “tax” and many other words — usually takes on a double x in inflected terms like “vaxxed” or “anti-vaxxer,” in keeping, the report says, with the trend toward “expressive doubling” that has become common in certain contexts (particularly in digital communication terms like “doxxing”).

The report cites neologisms like “vaxxie,” “vaxinista” and “vax(i)cation” and “inoculati.” Some may fade away and never make it into the dictionary. But others — like “strollout,” which gained prominence in Australia in May, amid frustration over the slow pace of vaccination programs — may become useful in a broader variety of contexts, McPherson said.

What to Know About Covid-19 Booster Shots

The F.D.A. has authorized booster shots for millions of recipients of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Pfizer and Moderna recipients who are eligible for a booster include people 65 and older, and younger adults at high risk of severe Covid-19 because of medical conditions or where they work. Eligible Pfizer and Moderna recipients can get a booster at least six months after their second dose. All Johnson & Johnson recipients will be eligible for a second shot at least two months after the first.

Yes. The F.D.A. has updated its authorizations to allow medical providers to boost people with a different vaccine than the one they initially received, a strategy known as “mix and match.” Whether you received Moderna, Johnson & Johnson or Pfizer-BioNTech, you may receive a booster of any other vaccine. Regulators have not recommended any one vaccine over another as a booster. They have also remained silent on whether it is preferable to stick with the same vaccine when possible.

The C.D.C. has said the conditions that qualify a person for a booster shot include: hypertension and heart disease; diabetes or obesity; cancer or blood disorders; weakened immune system; chronic lung, kidney or liver disease; dementia and certain disabilities. Pregnant women and current and former smokers are also eligible.

The F.D.A. authorized boosters for workers whose jobs put them at high risk of exposure to potentially infectious people. The C.D.C. says that group includes: emergency medical workers; education workers; food and agriculture workers; manufacturing workers; corrections workers; U.S. Postal Service workers; public transit workers; grocery store workers.

Yes. The C.D.C. says the Covid vaccine may be administered without regard to the timing of other vaccines, and many pharmacy sites are allowing people to schedule a flu shot at the same time as a booster dose.

Some coinages speak to the polarization around vaccines themselves. “Vaxxident” (a road accident supposedly related to vaccine side effects) has so far been seen mainly on vaccine-skeptical websites, while “spreadneck” and “anti-faxxer,” relatively rare derogatory terms for vaccine skeptics and Covid deniers, may be more common on liberal blue-state lips.

For the first time, Oxford’s report looks at the vocabulary of vaccination in nine other languages. Many languages, including French and Russian, simply use a version of the English word “vaccine.” In Spanish, the word for vaccine is “vacuna,” the feminine form of the adjective vacuno, or bovine. Unlike in English, where speakers often say “shot” or “jab” in colloquial contexts, “vacuna” is used “across all registers,” according to Oxford’s report.

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