‘If your child’s vaccinated, why do you care about mine?’ Rhetoric, responsibility, power and vaccine rejection

Katie Attwell, David T. Smith, Paul R. Ward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The social responsibility logic underpinning vaccination is omnipresent in the rhetoric surrounding its acceptance and rejection. People who reject vaccination are constantly faced with arguments from the vaccinating mainstream to which they must respond. Understanding the conceptual world of vaccine rejection requires us to understand how vaccine sceptics construct answers to complaints that their choices endanger other people. This article analyses interviews with 29 vaccine-sceptical parents who are presented with claims that their choices are not just morally wrong, but dangerous to others. We argue that vaccine rejecters possess power because their decisions can result in the transmission of infectious diseases through their communities. However, they refuse to acknowledge this power because, through a variety of rationalisations, they do not accept the logic of community protection (herd immunity) and social responsibility. Strategies to prompt parents’ consideration of others can include breaking out of the ontologically individualistic framing of the disagreement.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Sociology
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Dec 2019

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