Personal experiences push moms toward anti-vaccine stance

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I’ve always been all in on vaccines. Growing up with a family member who was paralyzed by polio – a disease now preventable by vaccine but that wasn’t when she was young – underscored how devastating the alternatives to vaccination could be. So I’ve shared the frustration of public health officials as the number of Americans who are hesitant or refuse these safe, preventive treatments has grown.

But research conducted by University of Maine cultural anthropologist Johanna Richlin complicates what is often a simplistic picture of why some American women skip vaccines for their children. In interviews, vaccine-skeptical moms told Richlin how their own negative experiences with doctors and the medical system made them distrustful and wary of vaccines. Their anti-vaccine attitudes, Richlin writes, “do not emerge solely from ignorance, conspiracy thinking, far-right extremism or hysteria, but rather the historical and ongoing harms endemic to the U.S. health care system itself.”

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Maggie Villiger

Senior Science + Technology Editor

Women’s own negative medical experiences influence their vaccine decisions for their kids. AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Vaccine-skeptical mothers say bad health care experiences made them distrust the medical system

Johanna Richlin, University of Maine

Vaccine skepticism, and the broader medical mistrust and far-reaching anxieties it reflects, is not just a fringe position in the 21st century.

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