(This post originally appeared on The Guardian)
There has been a lot of attention recently on anti-vaxxers, the people who – for religious or other reasons – don’t get vaccinations for certain diseases or the flu. Opponents believe this practice places themselves and their children in potential harm’s way, but also puts the general public at risk.
But now a startup claims that it has an unusual solution to this problem: used tissues.
Yes, you read that right. Vaev Tissue, a small company which might possibly be based in Los Angeles (or then again, maybe it’s Copenhagen?) and may or may not have eight employees (the details are unclear), claims that it is selling tissues that, they say, have already been infected by its team of professional sneezers. The company believes that using just a single tissue – which is reasonably priced at $79.99 – that already carries a human sneeze is actually safer than needles or pills or any of that other science stuff.
It’s a “freedom” and a “luxury to choose”, Oliver Niessen, the company’s 34-year-old elusive founder who “reluctantly” revealed his name to Time, said. “The simple idea is you choose now to get sick, with the idea in mind that you won’t get sick with that same cold … later.”
Here’s how it works: you wipe your nose with a Vaev tissue. The infected materials on the tissue then infect you. You get a cold – hopefully not too serious. You drink plenty of fluids and rest. The cold goes away. You then go on vacation or that business trip free from worry that you won’t get that darn cold again. Simple!
Niessen claims that the company has already sold a thousand tissues and says that his customers are mostly young parents and people in their 20s who are skeptical of vaccines and “seeking alternatives”. And all this time I thought the millennial generation was smarter than my generation. There goes that theory.
So does this work? According to the Time report: no.
“There are more than 200 types of rhinoviruses, so you’re going to have to shove about 200 tissues up your nose each time to get a different one,” Charles Gerbea, a professor of microbiology and environmental sciences at the University of Arizona, said. “Getting inoculated from one doesn’t protect you against all the others. How do you make a vaccine against 200 different viruses?”
So why is Vaev still in business? Well, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from studying entrepreneurism it is this: there’s always a market for crazy products, even if it’s niche and if a company is about as sketchy as they come.
I say sketchy because I have serious doubts that Vaev is really a business. And even if you still want to drop $80 on a used tissue, you can’t. They’re “sold out”, according to the company’s website. Niessen says the problem is due to “supply chain issues”. But don’t worry –according to Time, the company is in the midst of restocking the product as soon as its stable of sneezers can make them. So there should plenty of used tissues for sale soon! Or not.