Who Is Afraid of Vaccines?

  • Andrea Grignolio


The history of anti-vaccination movements is long and instructive. We can trace its beginnings back to late eighteenth century England and the practice of vaccinating against smallpox. From a historical point of view, we cannot say that opposition to vaccinations is anything new; what is new today is the increasingly large number of people involved and their social status. In addition, for the first time, we are seeing a decline in the vaccinal coverage of the population after two centuries of slow but inevitable advances: we are consequently seeing something very different from the opposition to vaccination in the past by some marginal groups.


  1. Aasheim, V. et al. (2012), Associations Between Advanced Maternal Age and Psychological Distress in Primiparous Women, From Early Pregnancy To 18 Months Postpartum, “BJOG”, 119 (9), pp. 1108–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aasheim, V. et al. (2014), Satisfaction With Life During Pregnancy and Early Motherhood in First-Time Mothers of Advanced Age: A Population-Based Longitudinal Study, “BMC Pregnancy Childbirth”, 14, 86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Amante D.J., Hogan T.P., et al. (2015), Access to Care and Use of the Internet to Search for Health Information: Results From the US National Health Interview Survey, “Journal of Medical Internet Research”, 17 (4), e106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Anderberg, D., A. Chevalier e J. Wadsworth (2011), Anatomy of a Health Scare: Education, Income and the MMR Controversy in the UK, “Journal of Health Economics”, 30 (3), pp. 515–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Anderson, M. (2015), 5 facts about vaccines in the U.S., Pew research Center, July 17, 2015 (
  6. Armitage, C.J. and M. Conner (2000), Social Cognition Models and Health Behaviour: A Structured Review, “Psychology & Health”, 15 (2), pp. 173–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bayrampour, H. et al. (2012), Advanced Maternal Age and Risk Perception: A Qualitative Study, “BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth”, 12 (1), pp. 1–13.Google Scholar
  8. Beaujouan, É., Sobotka, T. (2017), Vienna Institute Of Demography. Late Motherhood In Low-Fertility Countries: Reproductive Intentions, Trends And Consequences. Vienna Institute of Demography, Austrian Academy of Sciences (
  9. Benedetti, F. (2014), Placebo Effects: Understanding the Mechanisms in Health and Disease, Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Billari F.C., Goisis A. et al. (2011), Social age deadlines for the childbearing of women and men, “Hum Reprod”, 26 (3), pp. 616–622.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Blanchflower, D.G. and A.J. Oswald (2008), Is Well-Being U-Shaped Over the Life Cycle?, “Social Science & Medicine”, 66 (8), pp. 1733–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Blancke, S. et al. (2015), Fatal Attraction: The Intuitive Appeal of GMO Opposition, “Trends in Plant Science”, 20(7), pp. 414–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Blendon R.J., Benson J.M et al. (2014), Public Trust in Physicians - U.S. Medicine in International Perspective, “New England Journal of Medicine”, 371 (17), pp. 1570–1572.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bray, I., D. Gunnell. and G. Davey Smith (2006), Advanced Paternal Age: How Old Is Too Old?, “Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health”, 60 (10), pp. 851–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Brown, K.F. et al. (2012b), UK Parents’ Decision-Making About Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) Vaccine 10 Years After The MMR-Autism Controversy: A Qualitative Analysis, “Vaccine”, 30 (10), pp. 1855–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Capocci, M., Corbellini G. (2014), Le cellule della speranza: il caso Stamina tra inganno e scienza, Codice edizioni, Torino.Google Scholar
  17. Carolan, M. (2009), Towards Understanding the Concept of Risk for Pregnant Women: Some Nursing and Midwifery Implications, “Journal of Clinical Nursing”, 18(5), pp. 652–58.Google Scholar
  18. Carolan M. and S. Nelson (2007), First Mothering Over 35 Years: Questioning the Association of Maternal Age and Pregnancy Risk, “Health Care for Women International”, 28(6), pp. 534–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Casiday R. et al. (2006), A survey of UK parental attitudes to the MMR vaccine and trust in medical authority. “Vaccine”, 24 (2), pp. 177–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Casiday, R.E. (2007), Children’s Health and the Social Theory of Risk: Insights From the British Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) Controversy, “Social Science & Medicine” 65(5), pp. 1059–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Cassell, M.M. et al. (2006), Risk Compensation: The Achilles’ Heel of Innovations in HIV Prevention?, “British Medical Journal”, 332 (7541), pp. 605–607.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Cattaneo, E., De Falco, J., Grignolio, A. (2016), Ogni giorno. Tra scienza e politica. Milano, Mondadori.Google Scholar
  23. Chow, Y.K.M, Danchin et al. (2017), Parental attitudes, beliefs, behaviours and concerns towards childhood vaccinations in Australia: A national online survey, “Australian Family Physician”, 46 (3), pp. 145–151.Google Scholar
  24. Covello, V.T., D. von Winterfeldt and P. Slovic (1986), Communicating Scientific Information About Health and Environmental Risks: Problems and Opportunities from a Social and Behavioral Perspective, in V.T. Covello, A. Moghissi e V. Uppulori, Uncertainties in Risk Assessment and Risk Management, Plenum Press, New York, p. 221–239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Covello, V.T. and P.M. Sandman (2001), Risk Communication: Evolution and Revolution, in W.A. (ed) Solutions to An Environment in Peril, John Hopkins University Press, Baltimora, pp. 164–78.Google Scholar
  26. Crimmins, E.M., S.H. Preston and B.C. Cohen (2011), Explaining Divergent Levels of Longevity in High-Income Countries, in Panel on Understanding Divergent Trends in Longevity in High-Income Countries, National Research Council (US), Vol. 37, National Academies Press, Washington D.C., pp. 791–93.Google Scholar
  27. Dove, A. (2005), Maurice Hilleman, “Nature Medicine”, 11(4 Suppl), S2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Emanuel, E.J. and C. Grady (2008), Four Paradigms of Clinical Research and Research Oversight, in The Oxford Textbook of Clinical Research Ethics, E.J. Emanuel et al., Oxford University Press, Oxford, New York, pp. 222–30.Google Scholar
  29. Finucane, M.L. (2002), Mad Cows, Mad Corn and Mad Communities: The Role of Socio-Cultural Factors in the Perceived Risk of Genetically-Modified Food, “Proceedings of the Nutrition Society”, 61(1), pp. 31–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gigerenzer, G. (2015), Imparare a rischiare: come prendere decisioni giuste, Cortina, Milano (original edition: Risk Savvy: How to Make Good Decisions, 2014).Google Scholar
  31. Gigerenzer, G. e J.A.M. Gray (2013), Better Doctors, Better Patients, Better Decisions: Envisioning Health Care 2020, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  32. Gray J.A. (1999), Postmodern medicine, “Lancet”, 354 (9189), pp. 1550–1553.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Greenberg J., Dube E., Driedger M. (2017), Vaccine Hesitancy: In Search of the Risk Communication Comfort Zone, “PLoS Curr”, 9.Google Scholar
  34. Grignolio, A., Franceschi C. (2012), History of Research into Ageing/Senescence, in WF Bynum (ed), eLS. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester.Google Scholar
  35. Grignolio A.,,Cattaneo E. (2014), The story of Carmine Vona”. In C.L. Mummery, B.A.J. Roelen, A. van de Stolpe, H. Clevers (Eds), Stem Cells: Scientific Facts and Fiction, Elsevier, 2nd edition, London,, pp. 310–312.Google Scholar
  36. Heidinger, B.J. et al. (2016), Parental Age Influences Offspring Telomere Loss, “Functional Ecology”, Jan..Google Scholar
  37. Hough-Telford, C., Kimberlin, D. W. et al. (2016). Vaccine Delays, Refusals, and Patient Dismissals: A Survey of Pediatricians, “Pediatrics”, 138(3).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Jones AM, et al. (2012), Parents’ source of vaccine information and impact on vaccine attitudes, beliefs and nonmedical exemptions, “Adv Prev Med”, pp. 932741.Google Scholar
  39. Kahan, D.M. (2014), Vaccine Risk Perceptions and Ad Hoc Risk Communication: An Empirical Assessment, CCP Risk Perception Studies Report No. 17, “Yale Law & Economics Research Paper”, 491, pp. 1–82.Google Scholar
  40. Kahan, D.M. et al. (2009), Cultural Cognition of the Risks and Benefits of Nanotechnology, “Nature Nanotechnology”, 4(2), pp. 87–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kahan, D.M. et al. (2012), The Polarizing Impact of Science Literacy and Numeracy on Perceived Climate Change Risks, “Nature Climate Change”, 2 (10), pp. 732–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Kahneman, D. (2012). Pensieri lenti e veloci, Mondadori, Milano (original edition, Thinking, Fast And Slow, 2011).Google Scholar
  43. Kata, A. (2010), A Postmodern Pandora’s Box: Anti-Vaccination Misinformation on the Internet, “Vaccine”, 28 (7), pp. 1709–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Kuriyan A.E., Albini T.A., et al., (2017), Vision Loss after Intravitreal Injection of Autologous “Stem Cells” for AMD, “New England Journal of Medicine”, 376 (11), pp. 1047–1053.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Lampinen R, Vehviläinen-Julkunen K, Kankkunen P., A review of pregnancy in women over 35 years of age. Open Nurs J. 2009 Aug 6; 3: 33–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Larson, H., Schulz W. (2015), The State of Vaccine Confidence report, The Vaccine Confidence Project - London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London (
  47. Mather, M. (2012),The Decline in U.S. Fertility, Population Reference Bureau: World Population Data Sheet (
  48. Matthews T.J., Hamilton B.E. (2009), Delayed childbearing: more women are having their first child later in life, NCHS data brief, no 21. Hyattsville, MD, National Center for Health Statistics.Google Scholar
  49. Matthews T.J., Brady E., Hamilton B.E. (2014), First births to older women continue to rise. NCHS Data Brief, (152): pp. 1–8.Google Scholar
  50. Morini S. (2014), Il Rischio. Da Pascal a Fukushima, Bollati Boringhieri, Torino.Google Scholar
  51. Mummery, C.L., Roelen, B.A.J., van de Stolpe, A., Clevers H. (Eds) (2014), Stem Cells: Scientific Facts and Fiction, Elsevier, 2nd edition, London, pp. 310–312.Google Scholar
  52. Munro, S. et al. (2007), A Review of Health Behaviour Theories: How Useful Are These for Developing Interventions to Promote Long-Term Medication Adherence for TB And HIV/AIDS?, “BMC Public Health”, 7, p. 104.Google Scholar
  53. Neumayer, E. and T. Plumper (2015), Inequalities of Income and Inequalities of Longevity: A Cross-Country Study, “American Journal of Public Health”.Google Scholar
  54. Nilsen, A.B. et al. (2012), Characteristics of Women Who Are Pregnant With Their First Baby at An Advanced Age, “Acta Obstetricia Gynecologica Scandinavica”, 91 (3), pp. 353–362x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Nilsen A.B. et al. (2013), Characteristics of First-Time Fathers of Advanced Age: A Norwegian Population-Based Study, “BMC Pregnancy Childbirth”, 13, p. 29.Google Scholar
  56. Ogilvie, G. et al. (2010), A Population-Based Evaluation of a Publicly Funded, School-Based HPV Vaccine Program in British Columbia, Canada: Parental Factors Associated With HPV Vaccine Receipt, “PLoS Med”, 7 (5).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. O'Leary, S. T., Allison, M. A. et al. (2015). Characteristics of Physicians Who Dismiss Families for Refusing Vaccines, “Pediatrics”, 136(6): 1103–11.Google Scholar
  58. Rappuoli, R. (2014), Vaccines: Science, Health, Longevity, And Wealth, “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America”, 111 (34), p. 12.282.Google Scholar
  59. Ruiz, J.B. e R.A. Bell (2014), Understanding Vaccination Resistance: Vaccine Search Term Selection Bias and the Valence of Retrieved Information, “Vaccine”, 32 (44), pp. 5776–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Sandin, S. et al. (2015), Autism Risk Associated With Parental Age and With Increasing Difference in Age Between the Parents, “Molecular Psychiatry”, pp. 1–18.Google Scholar
  61. Smith P.J., Chu S.Y., et al.. (2004), Children Who Have Received No Vaccines: Who Are They and Where Do They Live?, “Pediatrics”, 114 (1), pp. 187–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Sutton, S. (2008), Determinants of Health-Related Behaviours: Theoretical and Methodological Issues, “The SAGE Handbook of Health Psychology”, London, pp. 94–127.Google Scholar
  63. Tearne, J.E. et al. (2015), Older Maternal Age is Associated With Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Symptoms in Young Adult Female Offspring, “Journal of Abnormal Psychol”, 125 (1), pp. 1–10.Google Scholar
  64. Viscusi, W.K. (1997). Alarmist Decisions With Divergent Risk Information, “Economic Journal”, 107(445), pp. 1657–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Yaqub O., Castle-Clarke S. et al. (2014), Attitudes to vaccination: A critical review, “Social Science & Medicine”, 112, pp. 1–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Zhu, J.L. et al. (2008), Paternal Age and Mortality in Children, “European Journal Epidemiology”, 23 (7), pp. 443–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrea Grignolio
    • 1
  1. 1.Unit and Museum of History of Medicine, Department of Experimental MedicineSapienza University of RomeRomeItaly

Personalised recommendations