Vaccine Hesitancy, Working from Home, Arctic Diplomacy: RAND Weekly Recap

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May 21, 2021

We discuss how Truth Decay is fueling Americans' vaccine hesitancy; the debate over vaccine patent waivers; how the shift to remote work is reinforcing inequalities; preventing the Capitol attackers from becoming martyrs; the Arctic region’s role in climate and national security; and whether the U.S. government should invest in a GPS backup.

A health care worker from the El Paso Fire Department administers a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in El Paso, Texas, May 7, 2021, photo by Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters

Photo by Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters

Vaccine Hesitancy Is a Symptom of Truth Decay

More than one in three Americans are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but many people say that they won't get the shot. Why is skepticism so prevalent, despite scientific evidence that the available vaccines are safe and effective?

According to RAND's Jennifer Kavanagh, the rampant spread of misinformation and disinformation over social media—one part of the Truth Decay phenomenon—has been fueling vaccine hesitancy. And failing to take steps to restore the role of facts in America could threaten our ability to end the pandemic for good.

Vials with Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine labels, March 19, 2021, photo by Dado Ruvic/Reuters

Photo by Dado Ruvic/Reuters

Waiving Vaccine Patents Is No Panacea

COVID-19 vaccine patents may not be the major hurdle in getting the world vaccinated. That's according to RAND's Krishna Kumar. With or without patents, he says, there doesn't seem to be enough vaccine-production capacity in the developing world. That's why the global community may want to view patent waivers as just one of many available tools for speeding up vaccine delivery. Other measures could help improve supply chains, production, and distribution.

Technology recruiter Penny Bailey works from home in San Francisco, California, January 6, 2021, photo by Jane Tyska/TNS/ABACA via Reuters Connect

Technology recruiter Penny Bailey works from home in San Francisco, California, January 6, 2021

Photo by Jane Tyska/TNS/ABACA via Reuters

Can Working from Home Work for More People?

Since COVID-19 hit, nearly half of the U.S. workforce has shifted to working from home. This has already reinforced preexisting inequalities, say RAND experts. And if the shift becomes permanent, then it could deepen patterns of inequality as America recovers. Policymakers could consider steps to ensure that the future of remote work helps everyone. These may include improving access to broadband and expanding technical and vocational training to help the workforce meet demand for new skills.

A protester is detained inside the U.S. Capitol as supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump protest outside, in Washington, D.C., January 6, 2021, photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

A man is detained inside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., January 6, 2021

Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Don't Make Martyrs of the Capitol Rioters

Prosecutors are preparing their cases against the hundreds of people arrested for participating in the Capitol attack on January 6. According to RAND's Brian Michael Jenkins, pursuing politically oriented charges, such as insurrection or terrorism, could feed extremists' invented narratives about heroism and sacrifice. The Capitol rioters committed ordinary crimes, he says. Charging them as such will have a greater chance of leading to convictions that can stop this behavior.

USS <em>Connecticut</em> submarine crew members after surfacing in the Arctic Circle during Ice Exercise, a biennial submarine exercise that promotes interoperability between allies and partners in Alaska, March 7, 2020, photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Michael B. Zingaro/U.S. Navy

USS Connecticut submarine crew members after surfacing in the Arctic Circle, March 7, 2020

Photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Michael B. Zingaro/U.S. Navy

Bolstering U.S. Diplomacy in the Arctic

Secretary of State Antony Blinken closed out a weeklong tour of Arctic countries yesterday. His trip highlights the region's importance to some key policy areas, say RAND experts. For one, the Arctic is critical to U.S. climate policy. Additionally, renewed and sustained U.S. engagement in Arctic diplomacy could help build a more secure environment. This is especially important as U.S. and Russian military presence in the Arctic region increases.

Clock with navigation marker and satellite orbiting Earth, images by petrovv and janiecbros/Getty Images

Images by petrovv and janiecbros/Getty Images

Should the U.S. Invest in a GPS Backup?

GPS is integrated into many existing technologies and is a vital part of a modern economy. What if this satellite system were to fail—either at the hands of an adversary or due to a natural disaster? A new report from the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center operated by RAND examines whether it makes sense to invest in further GPS backup systems. The authors conclude that the costs of GPS disruption may not be as high as is sometimes assumed. And any system that could entirely replace GPS would be much more expensive than the damages that it would mitigate.

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