New Publication in Policy Sciences on Public Preferences regarding COVID-19 Vaccine Alliances [open access]
The design principles of institutions that visibly and significantly affect citizens’ lives are likely to be politically salient. Popular support for these principles is in turn crucial for institutional viability and effectiveness. Transboundary pandemics are a case in point. Understanding citizens’ preferences regarding the design of international alliances set up to mass-produce and distribute vaccines is likely to determine citizens’ subsequent cooperation with vaccination campaigns. This study explores Germans’ preferences for international COVID-19 vaccine alliance design principles. We conducted a conjoint experiment at a recurring cognitive moment in many pandemics’ cycles, between the initial outbreak and a more devastating but still-unknown second wave, when infection rates were very low, yet no policy solutions had been developed. We analyzed preferences regarding four building blocks: (1) alliance composition (size; EUcentrism), (2) alliance distribution rules (joining cost; vaccine allocation), (3) vaccine nationalism (cost per German household; coverage in Germany) and (4) vaccine producer confidence (origin; type). Distribution rules, political ideology and personal perceptions of pandemic threat matter little. But a larger alliance size and dominant EU-country composition increase alliance support. And vaccine nationalism is key: support increases with both lower costs and larger coverage for own-nation citizens. Moreover, support goes down for Chinese and American producers and increases for Swiss and especially own-nation producers. In sum, a realist and technocratic outlook is warranted at the cognitive stage in pandemic cycles when no solutions have been found, yet the worst already seems to be over, as national self-interest reigns supreme in popular attitudes.