Rediscussing The Primacy of Scientific Expertise: A Case Study on Vaccine Hesitant Parents in Trentino
Keywords:parental vaccine hesitancy, childhood mandatory vaccination, trust in science and scientific experts, alternative expertise, reflexive patients, science communication
Vaccine hesitancy constitutes a pressing social issue. Media and institutions frequently portray vaccine-hesitant parents as ignorant and anti-scientific. This exploratory study – conducted in the Autonomous Province of Trento (Italy) in 2018 – analyses organized parents opposing the reinforcement of childhood vaccination mandates. Semi-structured interviews with vaccine-hesitant parents and physicians with experience with vaccine-hesitant patients, and participant observation were conducted to understand the perceptions of childhood vaccination mandates, focusing on narratives regarding the role played by science and scientific experts in the vaccine debate. Analysed through the lens of sociology of health and Science and Technology Studies, results highlight that vaccine hesitancy cannot be reduced to anti-scientific attitudes. Hesitant parents’ vaccination decisions are based on a different perspective of their children’s health and on alternative forms of expertise; there are persistent weaknesses in the doctor-patient and expert-citizen relationship in a deeply dualistic vaccine-related debate; and there is the need for a dialogue between institutions and vaccine-hesitant parents.
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Copyright (c) 2023 Eliana Fattorini
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