Political Puzzles of Disaster Management: The Case of Mass Vaccination Against Pandemic Flu in Developed Democracies – University of Copenhagen

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Political Puzzles of Disaster Management: The Case of Mass Vaccination Against Pandemic Flu in Developed Democracies


This seminar is about emerging questions within the field of political science, related to pandemic influenza response.

Since the late 1990s, pandemic response rules, plans, organizations and networks have been created or extended in many national and international settings. This emerging global ‘governance system’ for public health disasters was deployed in the 2009 H1N1 influenza (swine flu) pandemic.

The disease was first detected in Mexico in mid-April 2009, spread rapidly across borders and was declared a pandemic on June 11 by the World Health Organization. There were startling variations between national responses to the swine flu despite similar timing, shared scientific understanding and coordinated response regimes.

The seminar will focus on two features of this varied response record: One is how it challenges key hierarchical preconceptions about ways to handle unfolding public health crises. The second is how the record reveals several possible explanations of national public health disaster responses.

The presentation will  briefly introduce upcoming postdoctoral research by the presenter to chart national policy decisions related to allocations within populations of the 2009 swine flu vaccination (the major government response in all mature democracies) and to assess three of the explanatory approaches (the project kicks off in July and is funded by the Danish Council for Independent Research).


Erik Bækkeskov, Roskilde University

Erik Bækkeskov is Assistant Professor of Politics and Public Administration at Roskilde University. He holds a Ph.D. and a M.A. in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley, and a B.A. in Social Studies from Harvard University. His research focuses on parameters shaping choices within the public sector. His interest in disaster management and public health was kindled by work as a participant-observer in the
fall of 2009 at an international public health agency responding to the swine flu pandemic.

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