Stella Ladi is heading two research projects, funded by Research England, on the role of experts and scientific evidence in the design of Covid-19 containment and vaccination policies.

The Research England funded project ‘A global mapping of vaccination policies and the role of experts’ combined a study of Covid-19 vaccine rollouts in different countries with data on the use of expertise and evidence-informed policies in pandemic management to form an interactive map.

The map reveals that a cluster of countries including the UK, Australia, the US, South Korea and Portugal – top performers in terms of the share of their populations who are fully vaccinated – relied heavily on expert bodies to decide how vaccines should be prioritised and administered. These countries also based their communications campaigns on experts, presenting their vaccine strategies as informed by the best available research.

In contrast, countries with vaccine rollout strategies based on political considerations rather than scientific input – including Russia and Bulgaria – have been plagued by controversies between different domestic expert bodies and/or between domestic and international ones.

A final cluster – including Brazil, Kenya and Lebanon – took a mixed approach, following expert advice while also taking into consideration political dynamics.

However, the research found that policies have less impact on vaccine uptake than the national population’s attitude to vaccination programmes: this is evident in the cases of Portugal and Brazil, but also Bulgaria.

Vaccine uptake was also shown to be significantly affected by government communication campaigns, and the effort put into frequently sharing credible information and devitalising anti-vaccination or vaccine-hesitant voices.

The interactive map illustrates experts’ diverse involvement in the vaccination effort in 16 countries, as well as information on vaccine rollouts in countries around the world.