Vaccine, Politics, and the Coronavirus Pandemic

This semester, the Health and Society Program, with collaboration from the Bioethics Institute, the African American Studies Department, and several other units across campus, is delighted to present two talks on the politics of vaccines to coincide with the rollout of the coronavirus vaccines. The talks will examine a broad range of issues related to how individuals make decisions about vaccines, why some communities are reluctant to take the new coronavirus vaccines, and important lessons from the past about how racism in the healthcare and biomedical research arenas shapes contemporary challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Thursday, Feb. 18 | 3:30 p.m.
From Parents’ Vaccine Refusal to a COVID Vaccine: Understanding the Politics of Immunization
Jennifer Reich, professor of sociology, University of Colorado at Denver

Drawing on her award-winning book on why parents reject vaccines for their children, sociologist Jennifer Reich examines how parents make decisions about their children’s health generally and vaccines specifically. Building on this work, Reich will also examine how vaccines against the novel coronavirus responsible for the covid-19 pandemic are presenting new questions about vaccine hesitancy and trust. This talk concludes by considering why vaccines work best when used by a critical mass of people and how we balance personal liberty and community responsibility.

Monday, March 15 | 3:30 p.m.
Medical Apartheid Goes Viral: African Americans, Historical Bioethics and the Coronavirus Vaccines
Harriet Washington, Award-winning Author & Ethicist

After portraying the historical roots of racial mistreatment in the US medical-research arena, Washington will discuss contemporary challenges to ethical healthcare, including the dissemination of vaccines and the elision of informed consent through the lens of the covid-19 pandemic.