International comparison of vaccine skepticism


Interesting table in this Kevin Drum post. The US is in the middle of the pack with 69% agreeing about getting a Covid vaccine.

France is at the bottom with just 40%. This didn’t surprise me because I had read about French anti-vax sentiment on Twitter a year or two back but it did surprise me then. My impression of France till then been of a relatively rational country: land of Descartes and Voltaire.

All this didn’t matter all that much before Covid but it may matter a lot for the uptake of Covid vaccines in different countries and in turn the speed of recovery. So what is going on? Looking at the list of countries I don’t see much pattern at all. Among Western countries perhaps Anglophone countries have somewhat more confidence in vaccines than Continental European ones. I wonder what the polls say in smaller European countries.

Japan has a serious historic problem with vaccine hesitancy. In the case of COVID, it’s made even worse because they’ve been so good at controlling the spread of the pandemic there; the per-capita case burden in Japan is about 3% of what it is in the US, so people there don’t feel quite the same sense of urgency there that we do here in the US.

Japan for one need not really vaccinate. As long as they’re willing to be practically isolated from the rest of the planet UFN. Which they probably are not.

I doubt they’re willing. They’re missing out on an awful lot of tourist money right now.

Agreed. Though in this case we’re talking about different "they"s.

The citizens thinking only of themselves might be happy to skip the vax and the foreign visitors. That’s one “they”.

The government eyeing the overall economy is a different “they” with different concerns and different goals. Balance of payments, total economic activity, national competitiveness in international markets, and public health.

As well the tourist industry, from airlines to hotels to tour guides to event promoters to souvenir stands are a different “they” with different goals: Mo’ tourism mo’ bettah! But not so much that we get sued when our customers start dying or get too scared to come again.

This is the thing that drives me crazy that people don’t notice. Japan was crappy with their response. Limited testing and polite requests to refrain from certain activities. Not much different from Sweden.

Positivity rates suggest that they weren’t testing enough in the early months, but got their testing sorted out by mid-summer. And they’re doing something drastically different: their per-capita case burden (and current daily new-case count) is about 23 times lower than Sweden’s.

Don’t forget the Olympics which will give Japan a huge incentive to stamp the virus out before summer which will probably require a big vaccine rollout. I wonder if the Japanese government has a PR plan to deal with vaccine skeptics.

Not just positive rates, they actively throttled testing. They got lucky. Don’t know what helped them but you can’t point to Japan as a success story for the standard playbook.

I suspect, without proof, that a lot of what saved the Japanese is a culture of deference to government, and deference to society over self.

Plus a long-standing habit of mask-wearing in public. Plus fastidious cleanliness.

Testing doesn’t cure disease. If everyone is willing to wear a mask & distance because the CDC-equivalent or the Prime Minister says so, then COVID goes away.

It’s just benighted countries that demand personal proof of what’s in it for them that need to be mass-tested frequently to try to generate enough evidence to get mass-compliance with a self-evidently good idea.

And which even then has low compliance because “MEEE! I’m all that matters and I’ll do whatever I want.” Just like a petulant 2yo. And equally judicious.

That’s also pretty much what people say about Sweden. I suspect it was something more like some other less dangerous coronavirus had already swept through some of these Asian countries and gave them some level of immunity.

Maybe too soon to be speculating on that - Japan has announced a state of emergency and month-long business shutdown for Tokyo. Its still short of the stringent shutdowns being implemented in Europe, with time-restricted hours rather than closures.

An important point in discussions I’ve heard about reluctance to take the vaccine is that it wasn’t just anti-vaxxers, but others who were very worried about what risks the rush in developing the vaccines may bring.

Australia has been planning to roll out its vaccine program in March, now rejigged to a February start. What looks like a key selling point for us is that the vaccine approval will be a full Therapeutic Drugs Administration review as for any normal approval. All vaccines issued in other countries to date are effectively emergency approvals by their relevant country drug authorities [says Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, so who am I to argue]. We also have the additional 6-8 weeks for any problems to emerge.

Hopefully those together will reassure some of the 24% who may have been reluctant with a fast-tracked vaccine.

A more generous appraisal of their goals might be, simply: survival. Why would their survival be any less legitimate, or worthy of pursuit, than anyone else’s?

One wonders how well this shoe would wear on the other foot. I mean, if all those aforementioned industries, and the livelihoods of those employed in them, don’t matter… Are we in it together, or aren’t we?

On vaccine skepticism in general, the population I’m keeping an eye on is healthcare workers. You figure that if anyone would have a well-informed opinion, it’s them.