Pandemic Preparedness Systems and Diverging COVID-19 Responses within Similar Public Health Regimes: A Comparative Study of Expert Perceptions of Pandemic Response in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden

Jakob Laage-Thomsen*, Søren Lund Frandsen

*Corresponding author af dette arbejde

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National responses to the COVID-19 pandemic depend on national preparedness systems that must be understood as components of global public health emergency preparedness systems, governed and coordinated through the World Health Organization’s 2005 International Health Regulations. The pandemic has raised the question of why countries belonging to similar public health regimes, coordinated through the same global system, responded differently to the same threat. Comparing the responses of Denmark, Sweden and Norway, countries with similar public health regimes, the paper investigates to what degree national differences in COVID-19 policy response reflect significant differences in the policy preferences of national expert groups.

We employ a structured case comparison of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden to analyze their’ politico-administrative pandemic preparedness systems and policy responses during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. We use the results of an interdisciplinary expert survey completed in 2020 to analyze expert perceptions in two ways. First, we analyze expert perceptions of COVID-19 responses while controlling for national COVID-19 trajectories and experts’ characteristics. Second, we analyze the distribution and effect of dominant global expert-held ideas across countries, showing the importance of dominant ideas for experts’ perceptions and preferences for COVID-19 response.

The study finds no evidence indicating that COVID-19 policy variation between the most similar cases of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden are the result of differences in the policy preferences of national expert groups. Instead, our study highlights the importance of other factors than cross-national expert dissensus for explaining variation in pandemic response such as the politico-administrative organization of pandemic preparedness systems. Further, we find that expert support for dominant ideas such as a ‘focused protection strategy’ is associated with consistent policy preferences across locational, disciplinary, and geographic affiliations. Recognition of the latter should be a part of future discussions about how global ideas of pandemic preparedness are diffused transnationally and embedded in national politico-administrative systems.
TidsskriftGlobalization and Health
Udgave nummer1
Antal sider18
StatusUdgivet - dec. 2022


  • Pandemic preparedness
  • COVID-19
  • Expertise
  • Comparative analysis
  • Policy studies