Vaccine development during a pandemic : A case study of an academic research group in Sweden and their vaccine(s) against SARS-CoV-2

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Institutionen för kulturantropologi och etnologi

Abstract: This ethnographic study examines the multiple ways in which a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 disease and infection is known in an academic research group in Sweden. This academic research group has been working to develop a vaccine since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. Theoretically, this study builds on a grounded theory methodological approach as re-worked by medical sociologist Adele Clarke in her 2005 work “Situational analysis”, as well as on studies of immunology and microbiology within anthropology, sociology, science and technology, and philosophy of science. The findings are generated mostly through interviews with scientists of the academic research group and through participant-observation of the group’s work during September 2020-April 2021. This thesis conceptualises the vaccine being developed by the research group as not one, but multiple objects of knowledge – the vaccine is namely known both as machinic and as a loved deity. These different knowledges of vaccine are constituted through different discursive practices in vaccine development work, and by differential relations between human and non-human actors including discourses that participate in these practices. These different knowledges of vaccine also entail different perspectives on whether the vaccine being developed by the research group is a solution for protecting people from COVID-19 disease.

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