Vaccine rejecting parents' engagement with expert systems that inform vaccination programs

Katie Attwell, Julie Leask, Samantha Meyer, Philippa Rokkas, Paul Ward

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    101 Citations (Scopus)


    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.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)65-76
    Number of pages12
    JournalJournal of Bioethical Inquiry
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


    • Vaccination
    • vaccine hesitancy
    • Qualitative
    • Trust
    • Giddens
    • Modernity
    • Vaccine hesitancy


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