UNESCO Chair Global Health and Education Health Education, Prevention, Health Promotion, Children and Young People

Education as a “social vaccine” against COVID-19

Global Health & Education webinar series

10 December 2020


Professor Terje Andreas Eikemo, Professor of Sociology, Centre for Global Health Inequalities Research (CHAIN), Dept of Sociology and Political Science, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway

Photo: Elin Iversen/ NTNU

Professor Clare Bambra, Professor of Public Health, Population Health Sciences Institute, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Newcastle University, United Kingdom

Caroline Costongs, Director of EuroHealthNet, Belgium


The Journal Health Education is the official journal of our webinar series and aims to support the UNESCO Chair’s mission of sharing knowledge to support the global community.


Historically, pandemics have been experienced unequally with higher rates of infection and mortality among lower educated people, particularly in more socially unequal countries. Emerging evidence suggests that these inequalities are being mirrored today in the COVID-19 pandemic. Both then and now, these inequalities have emerged through the syndemic nature of COVID-19—as it interacts with and exacerbates existing social inequalities in chronic disease and the social determinants of health. In this webinar we ask if education can be seen as a “social vaccine” against fatal outcomes of the pandemic.

Our speakers’ contributions

In this webinar the following three questions were addressed:

Why can education be seen as a “social vaccine” against COVID-19?

The presentation of Prof. Terje A. Eikemo

Why is COVID-19 in fact a syndemic pandemic?

The presentation of Prof. Clare Bambra

How can the “social vaccine” be implemented in public policies?

The presentation of Caroline Costongs

Full video of the webinar

The full presentation of the webinar


The questions

How do you rate the medical impact of COVID-19 on people’s health?

How do you rate the impact of COVID-19 on inequalities in our societies?

Describe in key words what you think could best protect our populations against the negative consequences of COVID-19

The participants’ comments


Bambra C, Riordan R, Ford J, et al. The COVID-19 pandemic and health inequalities. J Epidemiol Community Health 2020;74:964-968.

CHAIN Centre for Global Health Inequalities Research. Infographic: The COVID-19 pandemic and health inequalities: we are not all in it together. 2020 EuroHealthNet.

Making the link: health, education, and inequality – Policy précis. 2020 EuroHealthNet.