Ian McKellen got his jab – phew. Now brace for a deadly outbreak of celeb smugness

<span>Photograph: Jeff Moore/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Jeff Moore/Reuters

It must be tough as a celebrity in the age of Covid. With all the traditional avenues of release and promotion closed, the famous have spent the last nine months desperately trying to channel their desire for attention into all manner of extracurricular ventures.

But a new path is finally beginning to form. Celebrities can’t promote films, because they haven’t been making any. They can’t make all their friends join them on an excruciating singalong video because – as Gal Gadot has been finding out this week – they will get asked about that much more than their actual work. But what they can do is get vaccinated. And they can pose for a photo while they’re doing it.

The biggest name, of course, is Sir Ian McKellen. He was vaccinated against coronavirus on Wednesday, giving a thumbs-up for the cameras while wrapped in a colourful scarf. But he was not alone. Prue Leith got her jab on Tuesday, Lionel Blair on Wednesday. Marty Wilde was vaccinated last week, as was Jack Whitehall’s dad.

And I don’t think I am alone in feeling grateful that the vaccinations are being given to the oldest celebrities first. They’ve all been around for long enough to know that this isn’t about them. They have enough wisdom to know that, by publicising their shots, they’re sending a message to the sceptics about how safe it is. There isn’t a missing photo in which Sir Ian McKellen suddenly keels over, or transforms into an Illuminati lizard, or sends a tracking beam directly to Bill Gates’ private surveillance satellite. He had his injection, said, “That didn’t hurt”, and then went home.

You can’t help but wince at what would happen if the youngest celebrities were vaccinated first. Remember when Justin Bieber visited the Anne Frank house and wrote, “Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber” in the guestbook? That’s the level of self-infatuation we would have had to deal with. Had Rita Ora, for example, been vaccinated first you know that there would be photos of her partying maskless by the weekend. .

When I see photos of McKellen or Leith getting injected, by primary response is relief. This has been a hard year for everyone – so hard that whenever a celebrity starts trending on Twitter, you brace yourself for the worst. But to know that Magneto – or the woman off Bake Off, or Lionel Blair – has managed to protect themselves against the angriest edges of the virus is to feel a brief glow of reassurance. This hasn’t been fun, but at least the nice old famous people will be with us for a while longer.

The best news of all though, is that celebrity vaccination photo fatigue will kick in before too long. We’re ecstatic to see 81-year-old McKellen getting his shot, and we’ll be pleased when 76-year-old Sir Ben Kingsley gets his. But by the time a photo of 72-year-old Jeremy Irons starts dong the rounds, the excitement will start wearing off. Nobody will even notice when 57-year-old Ralph Fiennes will get his and, when it’s time for 39-year-old Tom Hiddleston, people will be furious that it even counts as news.

This is exactly how it should be. As things stand, pictures of vaccinated celebrities are still novel. But by spring, when we’re inundated by photographs of everyone with even the slightest public profile posing gamely with a needle in their arm in a spurious attempt to reassure the public, it will be much harder to swallow. It’s nice right now, but that’s enough.