Hello Quartz readers,
Back in December, polling company Ipsos surveyed adults in 15 countries about whether they intended to get vaccinated. The results were discouraging. In France, for example, just 12% of respondents “strongly” agreed with the statement, “If a vaccine for Covid-19 were available, I would get it.” Only 40% agreed overall.
But when Ipsos conducted a February follow-up, the percentage of those who “strongly agreed” that they would get a jab had increased in every country—by 23 percentage points in France, 24 in the UK, 31 in Spain, and 36 in Italy. How did those countries change so many hearts and minds? They didn’t, or at least not entirely. Instead, the “vaccine-hesitant” simply became less so.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the WHO, and other global health bodies, vaccine hesitancy describes people who, for various reasons, wait to accept or refuse to take a vaccine even when one is available. This is a more malleable label than “anti-vaxxer” because it implies that people won’t take the vaccine just yet—but they might at some point, under the right circumstances.
In a recent paper, Scott Ratzan, co-leader of vaccine communication project CONVINCE, wrote that feelings about vaccines can evolve “as people weigh the risks, benefits, and convenience.” Ratzan and his co-authors classify attitudes toward vaccination on a spectrum of vaccine hesitance, which runs from vaccine-ready to vaccine-resistant.
Those labels are important: Different forms of vaccine hesitancy call for different public health approaches. Some US states, for example, are offering lottery tickets and free beer to those who get their shots—creative incentives that are unnecessary for vaccine-ready adults, but might nudge those feeling neutral. Meanwhile, ensuring vaccines are available in the places we’re used to seeing them (like doctors’ offices) is more effective at helping a vaccine-resistant person become vaccine-ready.
Even beyond this pandemic, Ratzan says public health campaigners should start thinking of vaccine hesitancy in a more nuanced way. He calls Covid-19 “a teachable moment.” —Annabelle Timsit
India’s death counters
It started with an editor’s observation: two dead bodies at a 1,200-bed hospital—the largest in Ahmedabad—on a day when none were reported by the Indian government.
The Ahmedabad edition of 98-year-old newspaper Sandesh started investigating, and with every conversation their suspicions grew: There was a glaring gap in the hospital’s Covid-19 death counts. For Quartz India, Ananya Bhattacharya and Amanda Shendruk look at how one small newsroom worked tirelessly to expose the Indian government’s disregard for human life, and to document proof of failure in prime minister Narendra Modi’s home state.
Three dinner-table convos
💉 US vaccine waste is about to go up. Vaccine wastage occurs when doses go unused, aren’t preserved at the right temperature, or hit their expiration date. The WHO estimates some 50% of vaccines go to waste around the world, which is tolerable when supply isn’t an issue. But with Covid-19 vaccines, supply is everything. Even 5% wastage—that’s one estimate we heard for the US—is problematic. Unfortunately, America’s Covid-19 vaccine wastage only stands to increase.
😬 Big Pharma is pushing a vaccine myth. The US government has thrown its support behind a trade waiver that would let low-income countries temporarily produce Covid-19 vaccines without paying for patent rights. But Big Pharma isn’t on board, and its leading trade association is pushing the idea that making vaccines in poor countries could actually be dangerous. Instead, pharma companies want to make it easier for western manufacturers to sell vaccines to poorer countries. One hiccup: There just aren’t that many vaccines to buy.
💰 The US labor shortage… isn’t one. Thanks to the unique character of the pandemic recession—and the historic magnitude of the US government’s response—we are seeing an unusually speedy jobs recovery. We’re also entering a quintessential post-recession period, when it’s difficult to match workers and employers. For now though, the wages needed to hire workers aren’t increasing unsustainably. That means today’s “labor shortage” is actually more of a wage shortage.
US consumer prices increased 3.6% year-over-year in April, or 2.6% when compared to February 2020, the last “normal” month. That’s a lot for the US economy! But while pandemic-driven business closures and supply-chain disruption are driving inflation, US policymakers hope it’s only in the short term.
We can already see evidence of that in the major sources of the increase. US investment analyst George Pearkes notes that nearly two-thirds of the growth in core inflation came from five goods: computer hardware, used trucks, car rental, air transport, and nonprofit healthcare. What are some of the biggest economic stories right now? The shortage of silicon chips, which slowed auto production and contributed to rising costs of used vehicles, as did the return of car rental companies seeking to rebuild their fleets, while air travel slowly re-opens, and clinics return to normal service as coronavirus fears subside.
“When workplaces reward grooming in women, they are reproducing what it means to be a woman in our society: objects that are nice to look at.” —Sociologist Jaclyn Wong
If you adopted a low-maintenance lifestyle (and wardrobe) during peak Covid, you’re far from alone. But as vaccine rollouts prompt a return to IRL work in some countries, employees accustomed to fewer showers and more loungewear are heading back into a pre-pandemic minefield of expectations when it comes to workplace dress.
How to adjust? Sarah Todd looked at the history of “dressing up for work,” and argues that the return to the office is a chance to rethink what constitutes a professional appearance—perhaps making work attire both more comfortable and more equitable in the process.
- The latest 🌏 figures: 170.8 million confirmed cases; 3.5 million deaths; 1.93 billion vaccine doses administered.
- Origin story: Time is running out on the WHO’s Covid-19 origin probe.
- Singapore fling: Covid-19 killed the UK’s dream of being Singapore-on-the-Thames.
- The road ahead: Uber finds itself in the ironic position of needing full-time drivers.
- Social snafu: Big tech platforms are getting in the way of Africa’s vaccine rollout.
- Trillions: Biden’s budget shows the big-spending state is here to stay.
- Now hiring: Americans are eager to shop—but many US retailers aren’t ready for them.
Our best wishes for a healthy day. Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and live your best Quartz life by downloading our iOS app and becoming a member. Today’s newsletter was brought to you by Annabelle Timsit, Amanda Shendruk, Ananya Bhattacharya, Annalisa Merelli, Tim Fernholz, Sarah Todd, and Kira Bindrim.