David Heinemeier Hansson

January 12, 2022

Why is Denmark able to have these vaccine debates?

It continues to fascinate me to no end how different countries have ended up with such different approaches to this late-stage pandemic game. While the French president is talking about "pissing off the unvaccinated", the Australians are trying to a martyr of Djokovic, and the Americans continue to render everything virus through the basic two-way political tribal lens, Denmark is doing something else.

I already wrote about the curious state of affairs that in a country with extremely high levels of trust in government, just 40% of parents have decided to vaccinate their 5-11 year-old kids. Despite a strong, persistent recommendation from the health authorities to do so. Well, that was two weeks ago. The vaccination rate hasn't budged since. Meaning the vaccine drive for that age group has stalled.

But that's not the most curious part. It's the fact that this vaccine hesitancy amongst parents of small children is taken seriously! Discussed widely, without reaching to the knee-jerk modes of condemnation that is characterizing so many other countries at the moment.

Just yesterday, there was a front-page story in one of the major Danish newspapers featuring this opinion from a vaccine researcher: It is unethical to recommend the vaccine to 5-11 year olds because we lack solid proof on the advantages of doing so for this age group. This opinion is then contrasted with a take from a professor who worries about long covid in kids.

This isn't an aberration. I've seen several other such mainstream articles that dare weigh the pros and the cons of the vaccines out in the open. Without a political blame game attached to the discussion. Without a shaming component inserted either.

I don't bring this up because I have an answer here. I really don't know why some countries break one way and others another. I don't think anyone else really knows either.

Joe Rogan featured a controversial interview with Dr Robert Malone last month that touched on this topic. I found it to be an interesting, sober discussion, and the fact that Dr Malone has been kicked off Twitter for expressing his well-informed opinions to be dystopian. But the problem with the discussion was exactly in trying to answer this question of "why are authorities acting this way"? Why the exclusive push for vaccines over medication? Why this demonization of researchers and doctors who dare speak about therapeutics?

It's a reasonable question! But we clearly don't have a good answer yet. And in the absence of such an answer, it's easy to go down the path of "well, it's gotta be the money... it's gotta be corruption?". Which I suppose it well could be! But does that really describe what's going on in Australia? Or France? And then why not Denmark?

There are some deep, dark questions of human psychology and sociology at the roots of all this. The zeal to "other" and hunt the unvaccinated in certain societies, but not so much in others.

I can't wait to eventually read the history of all this. Both the Danish and the American versions!

About David Heinemeier Hansson

Made Basecamp and HEY for the underdogs as co-owner and CTO of 37signals. Created Ruby on Rails. Wrote REWORK, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, and REMOTE. Won at Le Mans as a racing driver. Fought the big tech monopolies as an antitrust advocate. Invested in Danish startups.