Monday, May 16

Suddenly pandemic celebrity

One thing is important for the vaccine researcher who is flooded with questions from journalists and romantic offers from men: Freedom.

It was once in a distant past, where the corona was beer and participating in an airline, that Gunnveig Grødeland sat and told me about pandemics. The year was 2018. The occasion was an article about flu vaccines.

She talked about the new type of vaccine she was researching, one that could play a key role in future pandemics. She mentioned the swine flu from 2009, which killed around 30 Norwegians, and emphasized: There are far worse viruses we should prepare for.

The article was one of eight times Grødeland was mentioned in Norwegian newspapers and magazines that year.

Last year the number was 1248.

When strangers started calling her, they split into two groups. – One half were people who wondered about things around the vaccine, and the other half were men who tried to check me up, says Grødeland.

The picture of her in a white coat in the laboratory has become so common in the media that she could just as easily have had the column “Ask Gunnveig!” – with advice and answers to journalists who ask about omicrons and doses and boosters.

– I had not expected that people would recognize me. I thought you see some boring, nerdy researcher, and then you hear what she says, and then you kind of do not remember me afterwards. There I missed a bit, she says.

For the pandemic has brought with it far more changes than masks and distance for the 43-year-old immunologist. She has been given longer days, secret number, hidden address. And a bunch of inquiries from foreign men with romantic intentions.

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