Merriam-Webster has chosen “vaccine” as word of the year, noting the word could be a “vehicle[s] for ideological conflict.”
“The promising medical solution to the pandemic that upended our lives in 2020 also became a political argument and source of division,” Merriam-Webster said. “The biggest science story of our time quickly became the biggest debate in our country, and the word at the center of both stories is vaccine.”
The dictionary explained how the definition of “vaccine” was altered in 2021 following the use of new mRNA vaccines against the coronavirus.
“The use of a vaccine that triggers an immune response in an entirely new way required that Merriam-Webster revise and expand its entry for the word, which the company did in May. The definition, which formerly read ‘a preparation of killed microorganisms, living attenuated organisms, or living fully virulent organisms that is administered to produce or artificially increase immunity to a particular disease,’ was replaced,” the dictionary said, noting the definition was expanded to include an explanation of mRNA technology.
“The word vaccine was about much more than medicine in 2021. For many, the word symbolized a possible return to the lives we led before the pandemic,” Merriam-Webster wrote. “But it was also at the center of debates about personal choice, political affiliation, professional regulations, school safety, healthcare inequality, and so much more.”
“Few words can express so much about one moment in time.”
Searches for the word “vaccine” jumped 601% year-over-year from 2020, according to Merriam-Webster.
The word ‘vaccine’
– saw a 601% increase in lookups this year over last.
– had continual spikes of attention through the year.
– was about much more than medicine in 2021.
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) November 29, 2021
The vaccine has sparked severe backlash following mandates nationwide that have forced individuals to choose between their job and their health. The Biden administration announced a vaccine mandate for businesses with at least 100 employees, sparking several lawsuits from Republican-led states that argue the mandate is unconstitutional and violates federal laws. (RELATED: New COVID-19 Variant Causes Alarm For Some Scientists Over Possible Vaccine Resistance)
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit halted the administration’s rule requiring that employers with 100 or more employees mandate the vaccine or implement weekly testing, with the court ruling petitioners’ belief that “there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the Mandate” deserves further action by the court.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration subsequently suspended the implementation and enforcement of the mandate due to the court order. White House press secretary Jen Psaki later said private businesses with more than 100 employees should move forward implementing the mandate.