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'Vaxified' is now a way to turn heads on dating apps

Dating apps like Dallas-based Match are promoting COVID shots on their platforms and giving free perks to vaccinated users.

DALLAS — In a late-May virtual briefing of the White House’s COVID-19 Response Team, the nation’s most famous infectious disease expert struggled to keep a straight face.

Dr. Anthony Fauci laughed as senior advisor Andy Slavitt read off a list of dating apps, including several based in Dallas.

The White House was applauding the apps’ decision to promote COVID vaccines by offering free perks to vaccinated users.

“I understand some companies don’t want to go there, but we decided that for our members and our community, it’s the right thing to do,” said Hesam Hosseini, CEO of Match and Match Affinity, headquartered off North Central Expressway.

Match is a global app and Match Affinity has several apps that are aimed at more targeted audiences – like BLK for black singles and Chispa for Latino singles.

Credit: Match Group
The Chispa app offers a blue check mark and a sticker that says, "vacunado," to vaccinated users.

Each platform is offering special profile badges and stickers to users who want to promote their vaccine status.

Match is also donating ad space to groups promoting vaccine education.

The effort is particularly targeted at Black and Latino users.

“You know, we’re not coming out as a company saying you need to get vaccinated. We’re not out there to shame anybody who doesn’t feel comfortable getting vaccinated. We’re providing a tool for those that are vaccinated to put it out there,” Hosseini explained.

Match said a large portion of its members have already received a COVID shot, but Hosseini believes it’s more impactful to hear a message promoting the shot from “the cute guy or girl you’ve been talking to on BLK or Chispa,” than from a stranger or a politician.

Credit: WFAA
Hesam Hosseini is CEO of Dallas-based Match and Match Affinity.

Hosseini said Match is also donating to two Dallas-based nonprofits, The Concilio and Project Unity, to support their vaccine outreach efforts.

Hosseini admits 2020 and early 2021 presented “tough” challenges for his industry.

“We’re in the business of love, and the message was to not go out there and meet,” he said.

Shortly after the coronavirus pandemic began, Match launched video dating.

Hosseini said Match's platforms hit record high usage numbers during the summer of 2020.

As COVID restrictions have eased usage of video dating has not fallen, Hosseini said.

“We’ve actually found now that people are getting out there and dating in person, that our usage of the video dating feature has held at the same level as during the peak of the pandemic,” he said.

Credit: Match Group
BLK, a Match Group dating app targeting Black singles, offers a "vaxified" sticker to users who've had a COVID shot.

The pandemic seemed to prove dating apps’ resiliency during economic downturns – something Hosseini said he first recognized more than a decade ago.

“When other industries were in trouble, dating was doing well,” he said. “There’s just something special about the business of love.”

RELATED: How COVID-19 forever changed the dating landscape

And apparently there’s something comical about it, too.

At least when the White House talks about it.

Fauci and others on that May virtual briefing couldn’t help but laugh as Slavitt made this observation:  “We have finally found the one thing that makes us all more attractive - a vaccination.”