Journal of Bioethical Inquiry

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 65–76 | Cite as

Vaccine Rejecting Parents’ Engagement With Expert Systems That Inform Vaccination Programs

  • Katie Attwell
  • Julie Leask
  • Samantha B. Meyer
  • Philippa Rokkas
  • Paul Ward
Symposium: Public Trust in Expert Knowledge

Abstract

In attempting to provide protection to individuals and communities, childhood immunization has benefits that far outweigh disease risks. However, some parents decide not to immunize their children with some or all vaccines for reasons including lack of trust in governments, health professionals, and vaccine manufacturers. This article employs a theoretical analysis of trust and distrust to explore how twenty-seven parents with a history of vaccine rejection in two Australian cities view the expert systems central to vaccination policy and practice. Our data show how perceptions of the profit motive generate distrust in the expert systems pertaining to vaccination. Our participants perceived that pharmaceutical companies had a pernicious influence over the systems driving vaccination: research, health professionals, and government. Accordingly, they saw vaccine recommendations in conflict with the interests of their child and “the system” underscored by malign intent, even if individual representatives of this system were not equally tainted. This perspective was common to parents who declined all vaccines and those who accepted some. We regard the differences between these parents—and indeed the differences between vaccine decliners and those whose Western medical epistemology informs reflexive trust—as arising from the internalization of countering views, which facilitates nuance.

Keywords

Vaccination Vaccine hesitancy Qualitative Trust Giddens Modernity 

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Copyright information

© Journal of Bioethical Inquiry Pty Ltd. 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katie Attwell
    • 1
    • 2
  • Julie Leask
    • 3
  • Samantha B. Meyer
    • 4
  • Philippa Rokkas
    • 5
  • Paul Ward
    • 6
  1. 1.Sir Walter Murdoch School of Public Policy and International AffairsMurdoch UniversityMurdochAustralia
  2. 2.Immunisation Alliance of Western Australia, Cockburn Integrated Health and Community FacilitySuccessAustralia
  3. 3.School of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of NursingUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  4. 4.University of WaterlooWaterlooCanada
  5. 5.Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health SciencesFlinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia
  6. 6.Department of Public HealthFlinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia

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