Opinion: Ignoring behavioral and social sciences undermines the U.S. response to Covid-19

Infectious disease epidemics like Covid-19 and HIV are fundamentally about pathogens that are transmitted by humans in social contexts. Halting their spread requires insights from beyond the biomedical sciences.

The U.S. has bungled many of its efforts to rein in the Covid-19 pandemic. We believe that Francis S. Collins, the former director of the National Institutes of Health, perfectly captured the country’s fundamental flaw:

“Maybe we underinvested in research on human behavior,” he told Judy Woodruff during an interview for PBS NewsHour. “I never imagined a year ago, when those vaccines were just proving to be fantastically safe and effective, that we would still have 60 million people who had not taken advantage of them because of misinformation and disinformation that somehow dominated all of the ways in which people were getting their answers.”

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