Malte Thießen: Immunity as Relativity: German Vaccination Campaigns and Debates in Times of COVID-19. [Abstract]

COVID-19 was a shock. The shutdown of entire societies was considered a historic turning point already in 2020. Vaccinations promised a way out of the crisis. Even before the vaccination campaigns began, they were seen as a weapon that would decide the war against the pandemic, even as a promise of salvation. These hopes were dashed in 2021. Vaccinations offered a relatively high level of, but not absolute, protection. Vaccinated people were still contagious and thus a risk to others. My article traces the history of this disappointment and the attempts to solve it. I focus on German debates about prioritising vaccine distribution, dealing with side effects, and debates about compulsory vaccination and increasing social pressure on the unvaccinated. Vaccination campaigns thus serve as a probe with which to examine social orders and social distortions. At the same time, I place the current developments in a historical perspective. I ask both about the historical roots of today’s debates and about new developments since 2020 that only become visible in a historical perspective.

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