The Not Invented Here Bias and Vaccine Nationalism

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Recently, I read an article on ‘The Economics of Vaccine Nationalism’ by, which talked about the individualistic stance taken by the governments around the globe to develop the coronavirus vaccine for its respective citizens.

The primary logic being deployed here is that if even if the vaccine developed at our country turns out to be a success, it will bound to have a limited supply, hence we need to ensure that our citizens would get the first opportunity of availing it.

The article talks about the various fallacies in the logic being deployed, such as the high chances of a particular vaccine development efforts turning out to be a dud, and even if the backed efforts turn out to be a winner, it would provide a sub-optimal solution due to the very nature of coronavirus.

Hence, in order to ensure that any vaccine developed anywhere in the world is accessible to even the poorest of nations and not just the highest bidder, a collective effort is required at a global level.

While the notion of protecting your citizens might be a valid rationale, there’s something else that might be at play here. Something which is, in fact, a fundamental behavior of almost every human being: the “Not-Invented-Here” (NIH) bias.

Professor Dan Ariely has explored this irrationality in-depth in his book ‘The Upside Of Irrationality’.

The “Not-Invented-Here” bias primarily means “If I didn’t invent it, then it’s not worth much.”

In my previous article on The IKEA Effect, I talked about one’s attachment to self-made physical goods. As per Professor Ariely’s research, it turns out that this overvaluation extends to ideas as well.

The human race is not only slow about borrowing variable ideas, and it sometimes persists in not borrowing them at all.

On one hand, this bias can create a higher level of commitment and cause people to follow through on ideas that are their own. Hence, we are seeing several nations making massive investments in developing their own vaccine.

However, on the other hand, it may mean an irrational attachment to our own ideas. Just like Thomas Edison’s obsession with Direct Current (DC) electricity. When Nikola Tesla developed Alternate Current (AC) electricity, Edison dismissed the idea. Edison could have had the patent for AC since Tesla had worked for him when he invented it, but his love for DC was too strong.

The pandemic has invariably provided an opportunity for scientists and pharmaceuticals around the world to come into the limelight by developing a potent vaccine at the earliest, thus giving birth to a “competition” at a global level.

Hence, it is very much possible that the countries around the globe are simply displaying the ‘Not-Invented-Here’ bias. It remains to be seen whether it propels a quicker resolution to the pandemic crisis, or whether it would consume the entire world.

Written by - Snehil Kesarwani

Edited by - Chhavi Gupta

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