When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

Time To Change The Way We Talk About Vaccines

What we got wrong about the vaccines, what we still don’t know…and why we need to keep vaccinating.

a woman holding a syringe for a COVID vaccine

With Pfizer and Moderna, all speed records for vaccine development were broken

Carl-Johan Karlsson


It’s now been little over a year since the news broke that Pfizer and Moderna had developed respective vaccines that were well over 90% effective, and had no serious side effects — and they’d done it in less than one year, breaking all speed records for vaccine development.

Coming in the midst of a dark period of infections rising again around the world, the news was the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

Sure, there were still huge lingering questions in the global response to the pandemic, including the ability to produce and distribute these powerful new vaccines worldwide. But on an individual level, we were told quite clearly a year ago: if you get your jabs, you have a very high percentage chance of a COVID-free future.

Misdirected messaging

You can go back and read certain in-depth stories that included crucial caveats to optimism, like the uncertain durability of immune response to the various vaccines. Or the potential ability of new variants to bypass our immune systems. Or that factors like vaccine transportation and storage can also reduce vaccine effectiveness. Or — in short — about that vast space that exists between clinical trials and real-world outcomes. Still, in plenty of articles — like this New York Times piece headlined “New Pfizer Results: Coronavirus Vaccine Is Safe and 95% Effective” — there are scant signs of caution or scientific nuance.

And now, of course, the Delta and Omicron variants have conspired to bring our soaring vaccine expectations back to earth, and countries around the world are again locking down and closing borders. We not only find ourselves back to asking when it will all end — by now we know it’s a rhetorical question for the gods, rather than something the scientists can answer.

But we should also ask why the public was so ill-prepared for the setback. Was there something we misunderstood? Was there something the doctors got wrong? Was the vaccine uber-optimism from public officials and the scientific community the best and only way to maximize the number of people willing to get the jab?

Ideology vs. fear 

The misfired messaging has left an already fatigued global population now faced with the fact that vaccines alone may not be the silver bullet we were promised — and a no less troubling reality that the question of getting vaccinated or not has acquired tremendous emotional voltage that risks backfiring in the medium and long-term.

The first to blame are no doubt political leaders and demagogues who have slowed vaccine progress, combined with a very vocal minority of ideological anti-vaxxers spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories online. Still, we on the other side of the argument have fallen into a different trap of palming off millions of people as ignorant and selfish fools.

Where I live, in Bulgaria, the least vaccinated country in Europe, hospitals are flooded as some 75% of the population refuse the jab. But talking to people here, I’ve yet to meet anyone who fits the bill of the Trump-supporting, anti-science, anti-vaxxer ranting about freedom and rights. Mostly, the people I talk to are afraid — both of the virus and the vaccines — and they ask legitimate questions, especially over why the virus is still spreading in the most well-vaccinated countries.

Rising above demonization 

I’m still convinced that vaccination is our best weapon against the virus. The global health crisis and our apparent inability to prognosticate aren’t the products of some government conspiracy or Big Pharma plot (regardless of their billions in profits!), but simply the best that science could do in the face of an aggressive virus in a globalized world. We also know that vaccinations, while not bulletproof, drastically limit both deaths and contagion, with recent data showing that the vaccinated run 10 times lower risk of infection, and 20 times less likely to die once infected.

And yet, we should also see that such virulent and divided public debate goes beyond a simple science vs. delusion schema — depending as it does on factors ranging from religious belief and access to information, to misinformation and a deep-seated distrust in authority, whether in a purported democracy or blatant kleptocracy.

Indeed, while this pandemic has reminded us of both the power and limits of science, there is conclusive historical evidence that collective vitriol and demonizing are the worst possible tools to change anyone’s mind. And as for our leaders, it may be time to start trusting the public's intelligence and provide the fullest picture of that enemy we still can’t quite see.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


Shame On The García Márquez Heirs — Cashing In On The "Scraps" Of A Legend

A decision to publish a sketchy manuscript as a posthumous novel by the late Gabriel García Márquez would have horrified Colombia's Nobel laureate, given his painstaking devotion to the precision of the written word.

Photo of a window with a sticker of the face of Gabriel Garcia Marquez with butterfly notes at Guadalajara's International Book Fair.

Poster of Gabriel Garcia Marquez at Guadalajara's International Book Fair.

Juan David Torres Duarte


BOGOTÁ — When a writer dies, there are several ways of administering the literary estate, depending on the ambitions of the heirs. One is to exercise a millimetric check on any use or edition of the author's works, in the manner of James Joyce's nephew, Stephen, who inherited his literary rights. He refused to let even academic papers quote from Joyce's landmark novel, Ulysses.

Or, you continue to publish the works, making small additions to their corpus, as with Italo Calvino, Samuel Beckett and Clarice Lispector, or none at all, which will probably happen with Milan Kundera and Cormac McCarthy.

Another way is to seek out every scrap of paper the author left and every little word that was jotted down — on a piece of cloth, say — and drip-feed them to publishers every two to three years with great pomp and publicity, to revive the writer's renown.

This has happened with the Argentine Julio Cortázar (who seems to have sold more books dead than alive), the French author Albert Camus (now with 200 volumes of personal and unfinished works) and with the Chilean author Roberto Bolaño. The latter's posthumous oeuvre is so abundant I am starting to wonder if his heirs haven't hired a ghost writer — typing and smoking away in some bedsit in Barcelona — to churn out "newly discovered" works.

Which group, I wonder, will our late, great novelist Gabriel García Márquez fit into?

Keep reading...Show less

The latest