The pandemic has made it clear that the cost of people not trusting the government is enormously high. That does not mean we should not critically examine everything they tell us.
This is the root of the problem in many parts of the world, particularly areas of great inequality of economic wealth, such as the United States, where the upper income classes and the lower income classes often don’t share the same reality. The world does not look the same from the penthouse as it does from the doghouse. Or homeless shelter. That is why they look so differently at vaccines. As Anita Sreedhar and Anand Gopal pointed out in their New York Times article:
“As the emergence of the Omicron variant shows, vaccine mandates in the United States are not enough to solve this problem. Hesitancy is a global phenomenon. While the reasons vary by country, the underlying causes are the same: a deep mistrust in local and international institutions, in a context in which governments worldwide have cut social services”
In the US, unlike Canada and most other countries in the developed world, the people don’t enjoy as many public health services and they have been radically declining for about 40 years. They have only meager socialized health care. As Sreedhar and Gopal drew to our attention in their Times article,
“Research shows that private systems not only tend to produce worse health outcomes than public ones, but privatization creates what public health experts call “segregated care,” which can undermine the feelings of social solidarity that are critical for successful vaccination drives.”
Not only in the United States, but all countries where public health care benefits have been declining, such as Canada, feelings of ‘we are in this together’ have sharply declined. Both upper and lower classes don’t really believe this. The upper classes don’t want to be in this together, and the lower classes know very well it is not true. They see it every day.
According to research by Sreedhar and Gopal in many developing countries people are not as grateful for aid as we in the west might expect. For example, they pointed out, the WHO has spent a lot of money promoting vaccines for polio. These are very worthy programs. We in the west know that. People in developing countries however see such programs as demonstrating mistaken priorities. They see polio as a vague threat. At the same time, they are often going hungry and they don’t see any help for that. Here is what they found:
“We have starvation and women die in childbirth,” one tribal elder told us. “Why do they care so much about polio? What do they really want?” Researchers find these sentiments echoed in poor and marginalized communities around the world.”
Interestingly, poor people in rich countries often feel the same way. Distrust is very difficult to overcome. Words won’t do.