Boosting Vaccine Acceptance, Afghanistan's Refugee Crisis, Environmental Racism: RAND Weekly Recap

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September 10, 2021

We discuss what needs to be done to ensure more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19; Afghanistan's worsening refugee crisis; understanding environmental racism; how political polarization may affect health insurance purchasing decisions; helping extremists find pathways to deradicalization; and lessons from past wars in Afghanistan.

A girl getting a COVID-19 vaccination, photo by valentinrussanov/Getty Images

Photo by valentinrussanov/Getty Images

How to Boost Vaccine Acceptance

Vaccine hesitancy remains a serious obstacle to ending the pandemic for good. As the delta variant continues to spread, daily U.S. COVID-19 deaths have reached about 1,500—nearly all among unvaccinated people.

A new study by experts at RAND and the University of Michigan Acute Care Research Unit identifies ways to help increase vaccine acceptance in America. The report highlights three key areas of need: boosting confidence in vaccine safety and effectiveness; addressing complacency about the pandemic; and increasing the convenience of receiving the shot. The authors emphasize that combating misinformation about the vaccine is key to achieving these goals.

Afghan refugees board buses that will take them to a processing center after arriving at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia, September 2, 2021, photo by Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

Afghan refugees board buses that will take them to a processing center after arriving at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia, September 2, 2021

Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

Afghanistan's Worsening Refugee Crisis

More than 100,000 civilians were evacuated from Afghanistan following the Taliban's takeover. This represents just a sliver of the millions of Afghans who were already displaced by war. RAND experts say that hundreds of thousands more people could flee, ending up in squalid camps for decades. Staving off an even bigger humanitarian disaster may depend on whether the international community can press the Taliban to respect humanitarian norms.

Two industrial chimneys release heavy smoke into the blue sky, photo by kapichka/Adobe Stock

Photo by kapichka/Adobe Stock

Understanding Environmental Racism

Black Americans are disproportionately affected by air and water pollution and are more likely to live near facilities that produce hazardous waste. These disparities have been shaped by past discriminatory policies such as redlining. How can environmental policy reverse such trends? That's what RAND's Jaime Madrigano and Benjamin Preston are seeking to find out. As part of an ongoing series of conversations, they discussed their research with RAND president and CEO Michael Rich.

Magnifying glass over papers titled Affordable Care Cat Plans, photo by zimmytws/Getty Images

Photo by zimmytws/Fotolia

Political Polarization May Affect Health Plan Purchasing Decisions

Republicans who buy individual health care plans were less likely than Democrats to shop for policies using the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, thus missing out on government subsidies. That's according to a new RAND study. This led to Republicans forgoing an average of about $800 annually compared with similar Democrats. One potential way to close this gap is to make subsidies available to eligible Americans who purchase plans outside of the ACA marketplaces.

The east front of the U.S. Capitol seen through a shattered door on January 7, 2021, the day after the riot, photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP Images

The east front of the U.S. Capitol seen through a shattered door on January 7, 2021, the day after the riot

Photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP Images

Helping Extremists Find Pathways to Deradicalization

Violent extremism—especially violent white extremism—is seen as one of the greatest domestic threats facing the United States. To better understand this problem, RAND researchers interviewed former extremists and their loved ones. Insights from their discussions suggest that America's approach to countering extremism could be improved by focusing resources on preventing it, as if extremism were a virus or an addiction, rather than responding once it becomes a crisis.

A NATO helicopter flies over the city of Kabul, Afghanistan, June 29, 2020, photo by Omar Sobhani/Reuters

A NATO helicopter flies over the city of Kabul, Afghanistan, June 29, 2020

Photo by Omar Sobhani/Reuters

Lessons from Afghanistan

From 1839 to 1919, Britain repeatedly waged war against Afghanistan. And more than once, the British thought that they had conquered the country, only to learn otherwise. Examining this history can provide context for understanding America's failed mission there, says RAND's Scott Savitz. “Perhaps the foremost lesson regarding potential intervention in Afghanistan might be a simple one, which could have been learned from the British, Soviet, and many other experiences in that nation: Don't.”

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