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Vaccine Anxieties: Global Science, Child Health and Society

posted on 2023-06-07, 16:25 authored by James FairheadJames Fairhead, Melissa LeachMelissa Leach
Across the globe, controversies around vaccines exemplify anxieties thrown up by new technologies. Whether it is growing parental concerns over the MMR vaccine in the UK or Nigerian communities refusing polio vaccines'associating them with genocidal policies'these controversies feed the cornerstone debates of our time concerning trust in government, media responsibility, scientific impartiality, citizen science, parental choice and government enforcement. This book is a groundbreaking examination of how parents are reflecting on and engaging with vaccination, a rapidly advancing and universally applied technology. It examines the anxieties emerging as today's highly globalized vaccine technologies and technocracies encounter the deeply intimate personal and social worlds of parenting and childcare, showing these to be part of transforming science'society relations. The authors interweave rich ethnographic data from participant-observation, interviews, group discussions and parental narratives from the UK and West Africa with the findings of large-scale surveys, which reveal more general patterns. The book takes a comparative approach and draws perspectives from medical anthropology, science and technology studies and development studies into engagement with public health and vaccine policy. The authors show how vaccine controversies involve relations of knowledge, responsibility and interdependence across multiple scales that challenge easy dichotomies: tradition versus modernity, reason versus emotion, personal versus public, rich versus poor, and Northern risk society versus Southern developing society. They reflect critically on the stereotypes that at times pass for explanations of parents' engagement with both routine vaccination and vaccine research, suggesting some routes to improved dialogue between health policy-makers, professionals and medical researchers, and the people they serve. More broadly, the book suggests new terms of debate for thinking about science-society relations in a globalized world.


Publication status

  • Published


Taylor & Francis



Place of publication





Science in Society

Department affiliated with

  • Anthropology Publications

Full text available

  • No

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes

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