It’s one of many mutation-vaccine memes that has been doing the rounds lately. “Waiting in line for your 56th booster shot to stop the 89th variant that comes with the 23rd wave,” reads the text. The image accompanying it is a close-up of one of those malodorous lurchers from a zombie movie—eyes open but glassy and unseeing, slash marks on throat, half-grin plastered on his (its?) face, as if pleased by the news that the local pharmacy has a fresh stock of paracetamol. At this point, who among us can’t relate to this shuffling wretch?
There is a long-standing connection between zombies and pandemics in horror lore, but there isn’t always a definite answer to the question: which came first? Does the mysterious emergence of zombies lead to pestilence sweeping across the land, or does the plague come first, turning us all into zombies? It depends on which book you’re reading, which film you’re watching…or which real-life scenario you happen to be inhabiting. It also depends on how you define “zombie”, or “apocalypse”.