Measles had been declared eliminated in 2000, but has come roaring back because of the increasing number of people who have not been vaccinated. Parents may have legitimate fears of side effects, but claims that vaccines are unsafe are not true. Experts discuss the complicated psychological reasons vaccine refusal exists despite this, and what may help change minds to promote public health. 

Dr. Julie Bettinger is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the Vaccine Evaluation Center at The University of British Columbia. Bettinger says that health care providers like to see 90 percent of the population vaccinated to avoid the further spread of any disease. When a majority of the population is vaccinated, it protects the people who cannot be, like infants under two months of age or cancer patients.

Dr. Mark Navin, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Oakland University studies what makes people decide to vaccinate or not. He says that most parents are persuaded by trusted family doctors who urge the importance of immunization. When more clarification is given from a trusted provider, people often go forward with vaccination.

But even after talking to a doctor, some parents still oppose vaccination. Kristen O’Meara is one parent who held this view. Before eventually deciding to vaccinate her children, O’Meara opposed the idea after discussing it with a physician, who in her eyes was condescending and dismissive about her legitimate questions. She stresses that the best thing a doctor can do is listen and take questions seriously, in order to address concerns and help parents to make the best decision for both their children and the public.

According to Avnika Amin, a researcher and PhD student at Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, the decision to vaccinate depends on the way we judge right and wrong. What goes into the decision is much more than simply facts – emotions, fears, and values also play a role. 


  • Dr. Julie Bettinger, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Vaccine Evaluation Center, University of British Columbia
  • Dr. Mark Navin, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Oakland University
  • Kristen O’Meara, parent and former vaccine opponent
  • Avnika Amin, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University

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