Vaccine Hesitancy: Public Trust, Expertise, and the War on Science

Vaccine Hesitancy: Public Trust, Expertise, and the War on Science

by Maya J. Goldenberg


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The public has voiced concern over the adverse effects of vaccines from the moment Dr. Edward Jenner introduced the first smallpox vaccine in 1796. The controversy over childhood immunization intensified in 1998, when Dr. Andrew Wakefield linked the MMR vaccine to autism. Although Wakefield’s findings were later discredited and retracted, and medical and scientific evidence suggests routine immunizations have significantly reduced life-threatening conditions like measles, whooping cough, and polio, vaccine refusal and vaccine-preventable outbreaks are on the rise. This book explores vaccine hesitancy and refusal among parents in the industrialized North. Although biomedical, public health, and popular science literature has focused on a scientifically ignorant public, the real problem, Maya J. Goldenberg argues, lies not in misunderstanding, but in mistrust. Public confidence in scientific institutions and government bodies has been shaken by fraud, research scandals, and misconduct. Her book reveals how vaccine studies sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry, compelling rhetorics from the anti-vaccine movement, and the spread of populist knowledge on social media have all contributed to a public mistrust of the scientific consensus. Importantly, it also emphasizes how historical and current discrimination in health care against marginalized communities continues to shape public perception of institutional trustworthiness. Goldenberg ultimately reframes vaccine hesitancy as a crisis of public trust rather than a war on science, arguing that having good scientific support of vaccine efficacy and safety is not enough. In a fraught communications landscape, Vaccine Hesitancy advocates for trust-building measures that focus on relationships, transparency, and justice.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780822946557
Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
Publication date: 03/09/2021
Series: Science, Values, and the Public
Edition description: 1
Pages: 264
Sales rank: 589,688
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Maya J. Goldenberg is associate professor of philosophy in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Guelph. Her research centers on the philosophy of science and medicine, with interest in the connection between science and values.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction Vaccine Hesitancy in the Industrialized North 3

Part I A War on Science

1 The "Ignorant Public" 21

2 The "Stubborn Mind" 41

3 The "Death of Expertise" 71

4 Politicized Science and Scientized Politics 91

Part II A Crisis of Trust

5 Trust and Credibility in Science 111

6 The Scientific Expert as Hero and Maverick 138

Conclusion Rebuilding Trust 168

Notes 185

References 203

Index 243

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