Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Childhood vaccination: New research reveals that parents' decisions are based on knowledge, not bandwagon rumour

27.09.2007
'MMR may be safe, but not for my child' is a common phrase amongst parents who have refused the jab. But far from being based on ignorance or rumour, parents make decisions on vaccination armed with knowledge and ideas specific to their child’s health, new research reveals.

Parents assess the risks and benefits of vaccines by focusing on ideas about their particular child’s immune system - discerned from issues as diverse as family illness history, the child’s strength, behaviour, allergies and diet. This child-specific focus affects how parents evaluate scientific controversy, reassurances about vaccine safety such as MMR and advice from health professionals.

And as vaccination is now an important topic of conversation among parents, discussions with friends and family are usually more influential than those with medical professionals, according to new research in Melissa Leach and James Fairhead’s book, Vaccine Anxieties: Global Science, Child Health and Society, published by Earthscan this week.

Leach and Fairhead argue that instead of dismissing parents’ anxieties about vaccinations such as the MMR jab as ignorant, irrational or based on rumour, doctors and policy makers must understand the logics of parents concerns if they are to communicate with them effectively.

Melissa Leach explains: “Our research with parents shows the strong logic that often underlies anxieties about vaccination. Yet experts often dismiss parents’ fears as based on ignorance or rumour, which leads to further problems. Unless new approaches to developing dialogue with parents, whether in European or African settings, are developed, the huge potential for vaccine technologies across the world will not be fully realised.”

Acknowledging each child’s needs has been encouraged as good parenting practice. Yet the policy of nurturing a nation of ‘informed patients’ has bitten back in the case of MMR, because mass childhood immunisation prefers docile parents. This contradiction is just one of many explored in Vaccine Anxieties.

By comparing several recent vaccine controversies - from public mistrust of the MMR jab in the UK to resistance to polio vaccination in Nigeria - Leach and Fairhead challenge common views about ignorance, risk, trust and rumour and suggest new ways to bridge the gap between science and society.

Based on detailed interviews and surveys covering thousands of parents in the UK and West Africa Leach and Fairhead argue that the diverse ways in which parents think about vaccines must be placed at the centre of policy debate if the opportunities of rapid technological advance in health are to be realised.

James Fairhead says: “Vaccine anxieties are about much more than just health. Building immunity has become pivotal to the way we think about our health, and our deliberations over vaccines. Yet in West Africa, building blood is at the heart of parental thinking. Interestingly, these core concepts also linked to how people understand society, economy and politics.”

Public mistrust of the triple MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine in the UK soared after Dr Andrew Wakefield claimed in 1998 that it was linked to autism and bowel disease. Uptake fell beneath 60% in some areas. Many scientists have since debunked Dr Wakefield’s claims but MMR remains controversial.

In Nigeria the UN’s polio eradication programme was derailed from 2003 when many Nigerians in the mostly-Muslim north refused to allow their children to be vaccinated, saying the anti-polio campaign was a conspiracy to sterilize Muslim children. Polio became resurgent.

Leach and Fairhead argue that large health campaigns can run in to problems when they by-pass trusted local health systems. When this happens, top-down campaigns are easily interpreted politically and create worry among the public, as was seen in Nigeria. Campaign and routine local health activity needs to be better integrated, they believe.

Increased access to vaccines is about more than getting the right health infrastructure in place, it is about understanding why people want vaccines and why they worry about them, say Leach and Fairhead.

Poor vaccination uptake should not be attributed to an ignorant, easily-misled public, but instead appreciating the diverse ways parents think about vaccines should be central to policy debate if vaccination technologies are to genuinely work.

Endorsements for Vaccine Anxieties:
“One of the most insightful and compelling analyses of a modern public health paradox.” Richard Horton, Editor of The Lancet

“A remarkable anthropological comparison across continents, this book is about common anxieties and different circumstances as they colour people’s lives. The empirical studies at its core show us parents struggling with global science, with stereotypes about ignorance, with the delivery of medical services, all framed by their personal knowledge and experiences. Vaccination offers a brilliant case study for a brilliant exposition.” Marilyn Strathern, DBE, Professor of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge

“Is vaccination safe? Is resistance to MMR vaccine ignorant and wrong-headed? Leach and Fairhead offer provocative answers in this richly detailed account of how parents in the UK and West Africa cope with multiple anxieties in immunizing their children. This book should be compulsory reading for anyone concerned with global health and public policy.” Sheila Jasanoff, Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

“This should be mandatory reading for everyone who believes that new vaccines and better vaccine coverage are fundamental to improving the health of children throughout the world – for without a better understanding of how vaccines are perceived by the parents whose children are being targeted these efforts will continue to encounter needless frustrations.” Sarah Rowland-Jones, Scientific Director, Medical Research Council Laboratories, The Gambia

Gudrun Freese | alfa
Further information:
http://shop.earthscan.co.uk/ProductDetails/mcs/productID/781/

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht A promising target for kidney fibrosis
21.04.2017 | Brigham and Women's Hospital

nachricht Stem cell transplants: activating signal paths may protect from graft-versus-host disease
20.04.2017 | Technische Universität München

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

Im Focus: Quantum-physical Model System

Computer-assisted methods aid Heidelberg physicists in reproducing experiment with ultracold atoms

Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...

Im Focus: Glacier bacteria’s contribution to carbon cycling

Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.

A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A promising target for kidney fibrosis

21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine

Light rays from a supernova bent by the curvature of space-time around a galaxy

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>