Values and Vaccine Refusal
Hard Questions in Epistemology, Ethics, and Health Care
New Books in MedicineNew Books in PhilosophyNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Public PolicyNew Books in Science & TechnologyNew Books in Science, Technology, and SocietyNew Books Network July 1, 2016 Robert Talisse
Communities of parents who refuse, delay, or selectively decline to vaccinate their children pose familiar moral and political questions concerning public health, safety, risk, and immunity. But additionally there are epistemological questions about these communities. Though frequently dismissed as simply ignorant, misinformed, or superstitious, it turns out that vaccine suspicion, denial, and refusal are positively correlated with higher levels of education, and greater depth of knowledge about vaccine science. Accordingly, the common view that vaccine refusal is the product of ignorance seems simplistic. Yet the more strident forms of vaccine refusal are based in demonstrably false beliefs. How is this best explained? In Values and Vaccine Refusal: Hard Questions in Epistemology, Ethics, and Health Care (Routledge 2016) Mark Navin offers a balanced examination of the epistemology and value commitments of various stripes of vaccine refusal. After arguing that vaccine refusers may be reasonable, he defends a novel version of the view that there is a moral requirement to vaccinate one’s children. He then defends the claim that the State may use coercive means to enhance vaccination, but Navin makes room for exemptions for non-medical reasons. Navin’s book is a fascinating philosophical exploration of some very deep questions at the intersection of social epistemology and social ethics.