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COVID-19 Postage Stamps—Messages in a Message

Educational Objective
To identify the key insights or developments described in this article
1 Credit CME

In living memory, no epidemic has generated a medical, scientific, social, and political response as massive, rapid, and global as that of COVID-19, which quickly became a global public health emergency recognized by the World Health Organization in January 2020.1

The commemoration of major events takes many forms, including the issuing of postage stamps. It is a mass medium used to commemorate events or raise public awareness about topics of wide social interest or influence. Educational and financial messages about infectious diseases on stamps appeared in 1904 when Danish postal clerk Einar Holbøll developed the idea of raising money for tuberculosis by adding a surcharge to the sale of a “Christmas seal” stamp2 (eFigure 1 in the Supplement). With the rise of email the popular cultural significance of postage stamps has diminished, but they still remain a way for governments and nongovernment organizations to communicate on a broad scale and to raise funds.3

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Article Information

Corresponding Author: Bertrand Lefrère, MSc, University of Paris, UTCBS, INSERM U1267–CNRS UMR8258, 75006 Paris, France (bertrand.lefrere@aphp.fr).

Published Online: March 22, 2021. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.2139

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.

Additional Contributions: We sincerely thank Yvert et Tellier for the contribution to the iconographic corpus, as well as La Poste, Singapore Post, and Iran Post. Thanks to Karen Wyckoff for her proofreading.

Additional Information: Yvert et Tellier numbers in captions are a standard philatelic citation.

References
1.
Sun  J , He  WT , Wang  L ,  et al.  COVID-19: epidemiology, evolution, and cross-disciplinary perspectives.   Trends Mol Med. 2020;26(5):483-495. doi:10.1016/j.molmed.2020.02.008PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
2.
Denune  J. Einar Holbøll—father of Christmas seals.  Linn’s Stamp News. December 26, 1988.
3.
Bluefarb  S.   Medicine and stamps.   JAMA. 1970;214(3):602. doi:10.1001/jama.1970.03180030118044Google ScholarCrossref
4.
Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. National Microbiology Data Center, January 2020. Accessed January, 24, 2021. http://nmdc.cn/nCov/en
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