Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access | Ahead of Print | Last Modified: 13 May 2024

The Changing Unpolitics of Covid‐19 Vaccine Procurement

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Abstract:  Populist governments engage in “unpolitics” when the electoral incentives for doing so outweigh the distributive risks from policy failure. Studying the joint procurement of vaccines against Covid-19, I show that a group consisting of mostly populist governments led by Austria negotiated in bad faith, rejected compromise solutions, and obstructed joint problem-solving. They deployed these “unpolitical” tactics only once the legal framework for joint procurement was in place and the roll-out of the jointly ordered vaccines had begun. At this point, populist governments no longer faced the distributive risk of having limited access to affordable vaccines. By contrast, the electoral incentives for hard-nosed bargaining in bad faith increased, as the distributive issue of vaccine allocation became more salient and as populist governments came under pressure to deflect responsibility for having ordered insufficient vaccine doses.

Keywords:  Covid‐19; European Union; policy‐making; populism; procurement; unpolitics; vaccine‐acquisition

Published:   Ahead of Print


© Henning Deters. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.