UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose


Vaccine development as a public service

Authored by Sion Williams-Eliyesil

Vaccine development as a public service

25 June 2024

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UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP) Working Paper Series: IIPP WP 2024-08



Williams-Eliyesil, S. (2024). Vaccine development as a public service: Public service logic in the development of the Oxford AstraZeneca COVID-19. UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, Working Paper Series (IIPP WP 2024-08). Available at: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bartlett/public-purpose/publications/2024/apr/vaccine-development-public-service. 


This paper examines the development of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine during the COVID-19 pandemic as a paradigmatic example of an effective public-private partnership and groundbreaking innovation in drug development. Central to this successful approach was the Vaccine Taskforce (VTF), a novel state entity which distinguished itself by taking responsibility for the outcome of the vaccine development process, necessitating an active role in the process. In this paper, the development of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine is reimagined as a new public service delivered by the VTF, identifying the important role of public service logic (PSL) in the design and delivery of the vaccine. Accordingly, the paper employs service design blueprinting, a common technique used in the design of public services, as an analytical framework. Blueprinting enables a comprehensive analysis of the resources and expertise mobilised by both public and private actors, documents the highly innovative process that enabled the fastest vaccine development in history, and materialises the unique role that the state played in maintaining an essential connective tissue between all parties to enable the mindset that underpinned success. The results of the service blueprinting highlight that the state can play a broader role in drug development, moving beyond facilitating private actors and becoming an active participant in the innovation process, further suggesting that the engagement of PSL with existing innovation commons can shape the motivations of private actors in the creation of public value. Extending the design lens, the paper concludes by examining the question: how might we see the development of new drugs as a public service?