Calling the Shots: The Politics of Vaccine Skepticism in the United States

Krupenkin, Maria [Browse]
Senior thesis
126 pages


Wailoo, Keith [Browse]
Princeton University. Department of Molecular Biology [Browse]
Class year
Summary note
This thesis examines two dimensions of vaccination - the biological ramifications of anti- vaccine activism, and the social forces driving vaccine refusal. It is divided into two parts. The first part serves to examine the effects of the anti-vaccine movement from a biological per- spective. It discusses two of the major effects of the modern anti-vaccine movement: reduced levels of vaccination leading to loss of herd immunity, and replacement of certain vaccines by less effective counterparts. Much of the information spread by the anti-vaccine movement and sometimes repeated by mainstream news sources is based on discredited or misinterpreted studies. Thus, it is critical to examine these studies and understand the flaws that invalidate their conclusions. Chapter 2 looks at the ties between the MMR vaccine scare and measles epidemics through the perspective of herd immunity. Chapter 3 then examines the effects of the anti-vaccine movement on the vaccine industry, which resulted in the adoption of a less effective pertussis vaccine. The second part delves deeper into the values that lead people to refuse vaccination. I seek to explore not only the demographic factors related to vaccination, but the worldview that leads individuals to vaccine skepticism. Chapter 4 draws several hypotheses from the literature about the reasons behind vaccine refusal. Chapter 5 examines vaccination decisions from a rational framework. Chapter 6 uses to tools of public opinion to dissect the vaccination decision and draw out the beliefs influencing the discrete parts of this decision. Finally, Chapter 7 investigates the relation of political beliefs and childhood vaccination rates.

Supplementary Information