The Swiss vaccination enigma: Between panacea, federalism and skepticism

Monday, November 1, 2021 13:00to14:30
Registration: https://forms.gle/rmbHxFfB9pcnSyeJ6

The McGill Research Group on Health and Law (RGHL) welcome Mélanie Levy, Health Law Institute, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland.

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A Zoom link will be sent to you ahead of the talk.


The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed systemic, institutional, and legal obstacles and inefficiencies in Switzerland’s public health system. Partly due to federalism and the lack of digitalization, the rollout of Swiss vaccination programs in early 2021 was slow and error prone. Now, vaccine skepticism in a significant part of the Swiss population jeopardizes the return to a life without restrictions. This phenomenon raises the question of incentives to promote vaccination and increase individuals’ willingness to get vaccinated. So far, Switzerland has been cautious in this area, compared to other countries.

Possible tools range from vaccine mandates, at least for specific professions, to financial incentives and indirect mechanisms, such as certificates that allow vaccinated and tested individuals to access public venues and services (e.g., restaurant, airplane, university campus). The dichotomy between public health and individual liberty points to solidarity as a normative principle to address the frictions within Swiss society regarding vaccination.

Finally, the principle of solidarity highlights Switzerland’s international obligations in the context of the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and the hitherto inequitable distribution of vaccines.


Mélanie Levy is an assistant professor at the Faculty of Law and co-director of the Health Law Institute at the University of Neuchâtel in Switzerland. She is currently directing a research group financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation on the topic "The Increasing Weight of Regulation: The Role(s) of Law as a Public Health Tool in the Prevention State". Mélanie Levy is also an adjunct lecturer at the Buchmann Faculty of Law at Tel Aviv University.

Professor Levy obtained her LL.M. from Cambridge University and her Ph.D. in Law from the University of Neuchâtel. She then pursued postdocs with the Research Group on Health and Law at McGill University and the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Tel Aviv University. Melanie Levy’s research interests lie at the intersection of law, medicine, technology, and society.

Her latest work includes papers on "The rise of the Swiss regulatory healthcare state: On preserving the just in the quest for the better (or less expensive?)" and "Surrogacy and parenthood: a European saga of genetic essentialism and gender discrimination".

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