Refusing vaccination is anti-social, not irrational

February 10, 2015 4:59 PM

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The recent outbreak of measles in Disneyland and the increase in measles cases nationwide have led to public health concerns, as well as a backlash against parents who refuse to vaccinate their children. Most media coverage has framed the issue as science versus irrationality, ignorance, and fear. However, this framing misses a key motivation for refusing vaccination. In some cases, the problem arguably isn’t the reluctance of anti-vaccine parents to accept overwhelming scientific evidence that vaccines are safe and effective. It’s that anti-vaccine parents are exploiting others by behaving rationally and strategically.

Public health experts see parents who refuse to vaccinate their children as irrational people who cannot accept clear and convincing evidence that vaccines are safe and effective. Public health experts encourage vaccination by emphasizing our vast historical experience with vaccines and the absence ...

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