If there is one single debate in the parenting world that truly shows no sign of slowing down, it's the discussion centered on vaccinating children. Whether you're midconversation at the park or perusing Facebook after putting the kids to bed, the topic sends parents into an all-out fury no matter which side of the argument they're on. Now, a new study published by researchers at Emory University in the medical journal Nature Human Behaviour seeks to uncover why some people choose to vaccinate their kids and others opt out. The most intriguing part of the study has to do with the benchmarks they used to measure their findings. Researchers looked at parents' decision-making processes by evaluating which "values" they consider to be the most important.
The study authors' goal was to "understand how underlying morals, not just attitudes, differ by hesitancy type to develop [vaccine] interventions that work with individual values." In order to measure this, they modeled their study on the moral foundations theory. In layman's terms, researchers dug deep into a person's moral or ethical reasoning for their choice on whether or not to vaccinate, compared to simply relying on surveys that only account for a person's attitude on the matter. What makes this study so different? It hits on an emotional nerve, and that's extremely important.
Pro-vaxxers place more value on:
Care and fairness. Parents from this line of thinking tend to support the idea that to keep their kids safe and healthy, not only do they need to get their kids vaccinated, but you do, too, aligning themselves with the notion of herd immunity.
Anti-vaxxers place more value on:
Liberty and purity. According to the study, the "vaccine-hesitant" group was made up of parents who fall into the following categories: (1) people received all their vaccines but express concerns about vaccination, (2) those who selectively delayed or refused vaccines, and (3) people who refused all vaccines. For parents who fall into this group, the concept of herd immunity is generally less important to them compared to their issues with the amount of "unnatural" elements in vaccines and believing no institution (read: the government or their kids' school) has the ability to tell them how to raise their kids.
Hmm, very interesting indeed.
It's important to note that this study was the first step in trying to quantify how values and vaccine-based decision-making are related, so no hard and fast conclusions can be drawn just yet. The one important assertion the study immediately backed is something the medical community has always stood behind, and it lies in the very first sentence of the abstract: "Clusters of unvaccinated children are particularly susceptible to outbreaks of vaccine-preventable disease."