Accepted Paper:

Politicising or depoliticising public participation: civil society lobbying and e-petitions in pro-vaccination public support  


Samantha Vanderslott (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores public participation in the introduction of a new vaccine by interrogating the politicising and depoliticising elements for influencing policymaking. It argues the democratic involvement of publics can be better understood by determining what is meant by politicisation and why.

Paper long abstract:

Opposition to vaccination is well documented. Support for vaccination, how this materialises in what forms and by whom is more often overlooked, by academics, the media, and policymakers. What can the cases and instances of public support for vaccination tell us about how and why pro-vaccination views and behaviours are produced?

The UK was the first country worldwide to introduce the MenB vaccine to protect against meningococcal disease, (which results in meningitis or blood poisoning) into its routine vaccination schedule. This introduction preceded a campaign of advocacy support and followed by e-petitions to further the reach of the vaccine. This paper focuses on the introduction of the MenB vaccine in 2015 by exploring the public participation components through civil society lobbying and public e-petitions.

The public mobilisation and response to the MenB was overwhelming positive with further public calls to extend the provision of the vaccine. However, while traditional civil society lobbying worked well as a successful strategy of public participation in policymaking influence, e-petitions did not. Drawing on work by Waterton and Tsouvalis (2016) and others taking approaches from Science and Technology Studies (STS), this paper interrogates the politicising and depoliticising elements of each strategy. It argues that we can better understand the current conceptualisation, intended roles, and strategy effectiveness of public participation by determining what is meant by politicisation and why.

Panel E09
Experiments in democracy