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The Anti-Vax Pox

Despite overwhelming evidence that vaccines are safe and effective against COVID-19, sizable minorities in many countries remain unconvinced or even hostile to this proven public-health measure. But while advanced economies grapple mainly with the problem of vaccine resistance, poorer countries’ immunization programs are lagging far behind.

In this Big Picture, Harvard University’s Jeffrey Frankel crunches the data to highlight the potentially fatal consequences of US Republican voters’ greater reluctance to accept COVID-19 vaccines. But Daniel Gros of the Centre for European Policy Studies argues that many Americans’ decisions to refuse the jab are based rather on fundamental beliefs, and thus will be difficult to change. And historian Michael Burleigh warns that anti-vaxx sentiments could become a key pillar in a dangerous new form of populism.

Even so, Hugo Drochon of the University of Nottingham suggests that since censoring bizarre beliefs and misinformation tends not to be effective, vaccine mandates might be the only solution for the final holdouts. Likewise, Peter Singer of Princeton University points to compulsory seat-belt laws to show why governments are justified in requiring immunization during a pandemic.

But most advanced economies at least have enough vaccines. Ngaire Woods and Anna Petherick of the University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government show how the rich world has exacerbated the pandemic and is now prevaricating about getting vaccines to countries that need them most. And Rosemarie Muganda of PATH urges governments and donors to double down on immunization against other diseases besides COVID-19.

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