Policy Brief: Who should get priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine?

Social scientists conduct poll on German sentiment, informative for policymakers working to ensure uptake of the vaccine.  

Now that several COVID-19 vaccines have been approved and are ready for use, governments face the question of who should get them first. This raises a host of challenges ranging from logistics to human rights. The German government will prioritise groups of people according to criteria like their occupation, age or health condition.

A group of social scientists from the Hertie School and its SCRIPTS programme with the Humboldt Universität in Berlin wanted to find out how the government’s plan dovetails with public preferences. In a new policy brief, the experts in data science, fundamental rights and security reveal the findings of a population survey they conducted in September 2020, asking Germans who should receive priority access to vaccination.

Given the potential life or death consequences of the virus, public opinion should not be the driving factor behind who gets it, the scientists noted, but preferences can be informative for policymakers who need to ensure public uptake of the vaccine. While preferences were largely in line with the government’s plans, there were also some differences. For one thing, the general population did not identify age as a decisive criterion.

The study sampled 1,585 participants and was carried out by Simon Munzert, Assistant Professor of  Data Science and Public Policy at the Hertie School; Lukas F. Stoetzer, postdoctoral researcher at SCRIPTS; Anita Gohdes, Hertie School Professor of International and Cyber Security;  Başak Çalı, Hertie School Professor of International Law and Co-Director of the Centre for Fundamental Rights; and Will Lowe, Senior Research Scientist at the Hertie School’s Data Science Lab.

Read the full policy brief here.

Photo: picture alliance / Jochen Eckel 

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Views expressed by the author/interviewee may not necessarily reflect the views and values of the Hertie School.