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Transforming vaccinology 
Stuart Blume (University of Amsterdam)
Vesna Trifunovic (The Institute of Ethnography, Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts)
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Traditional Open Panel

Short Abstract:

In the 1980s ‘vaccinology’ was transformed by new technology and the neo-liberal world order. Today a new transformation is taking place. Technological advance, retreat from globalization, and mistrust are driving it. What about experiences with the recent pandemic? Whose experiences?

Long Abstract:

In 1977 Jonas Salk proposed the term `vaccinology’ to refer to `the study and application of the basic requirements for effective immunization’. He conceived vaccinology as encompassing all the knowledge on which effective vaccination programmes would have to be based. In addition to fundamental studies of pathogens, and epidemiological research, it should include study of the social, political, and cultural characteristics of populations. Blume and Geesink subsequently suggested that the notion of vaccinology is comparable with the then new concept of ‘Mode 2’ science. Whilst both refer to a structure of knowledge production, both also entail a political claim. In the 1980s vaccinology changed radically: the result of interactions between technological change (vaccines developed through genetic engineering) and the new neo-liberal world order. There was no sign of the socio-cultural agenda Salk had thought necessary. ‘Knowledge’, once freely available, became ‘intellectual capital’. This panel will focus on equally radical transformations now underway. Today’s new technology is mRNA. Vaccine production and distribution are being ‘re-nationalized’, though differently (and perhaps more ideologically) than was the case in the 1970s. Is current ‘pandemic preparedness’ too focused on speeding up development of new vaccines? How are institutional interests, or commitments (‘lock in’) obscuring or blocking lessons that should be drawn from recent experiences? What of measures addressing global inequalities in access to vaccines, or increasing vaccine hesitancy (provoked in part by fear of side effects)? What of the missing socio-cultural agenda? STS can help clarify the changes underway, and can help illuminate routes to more responsive and politically, socially, and economically appropriate pandemic preparedness.

Accepted papers:

Session 1
Session 2