Historical Perspectives On Contemporary Issues

Trust in Science: Vaccines


A forum held at the American Philosophical Society on January 29, 2019, and continued online here.

 

Join us to examine vaccine skepticism, in contemporary America, historically, and in the clinic. What are the historical roots of resistance to vaccination? What is the data about contemporary attitudes? How do these attitudes relate to changing social, economic and political contexts? How do these issues play out in the relationship between a doctor and a patient? Three experts will share their research and experience on these questions, and lead our discussion.

"Trust in Science: Vaccines" is the first event in a series inspired by Perceptions of Science in America, a report from the Public Face of Science Initiative at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Two more events later in the year will cover trust in science through evolution and climate change. This series is presented by the Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine.

 
We invite you to watch the video or listen to audio of the event, read the expert commentary, browse relevant resources from across the Consortium, and join the discussion here. If you are not already a registered member of our web site, please create an account before participating in the discussion.
 
Questions or comments about this event or others like it? Let us know.

Featuring

Jeffrey Baker Duke University

Jeffrey Baker is Professor of Pediatrics and History, and directs the Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities, and History of Medicine at Duke University School of Medicine.  He is a general pediatrician with a focus on children with autism spectrum disorders, and a medical historian whose work has addressed vaccine controversies, autism, and the history of pediatrics.

 
Elena Conis University of California, Berkeley

Elena Conis is Associate Professor at the University of California, in the Graduate School of Journalism, the Center for Science, Technology, Medicine and Society, and the Program in Media Studies--as well as the Department of Anthropology, History and Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. Her book, Vaccine Nation: America’s Changing Relationship with Immunization, won the Arthur J. Viseltear Award for contributions to the history of public health from the American Public Health Association in 2015.

 
Robert M. Hauser American Philosophical Society

Robert M. Hauser is Executive Officer of the American Philosophical Society and is part of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Public Face of Science steering committee. 

 
Erica Kimmerling American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Erica Kimmerling is the Hellman Fellow in Science and Technology Policy at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. As a Hellman fellow she helps staff the Public Face of Science and the lead drafter of the 2018 American Academy report Perceptions of Science in America.

 
Law, Heterogeneity, and Building Trust Disease Prevention
James Colgrove

Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University

James Colgrove, Ph.D., M.P.H. conducts research on the relationship between individual rights and the collective well-being, and the process through which public health policies have been mediated in American history. You can read more about his work here.

The three presenters do an excellent job of highlighting the sociopolitical, legal, and ethical challenges surrounding trust in vaccines. Their talks illuminate the complexity of this issue and the need to grapple not just with questions of trust, but with deeply rooted beliefs about communal rights and responsibilities in a pluralistic and closely interconnected society. I would like to make three observations prompted by the insights provided in these presentations.
 

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Educating the Public, Cultivating Trust
Neal Halsey

Department of International Health,Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University

Neal Halsey, MD conducts research and teaches toward the prevention of infectious disease with the safest vaccines possible. He works with the Johns Hopkins Vaccine Initiative, the Center for Global Health, and the Institute for Vaccine Safety. You can read more about his work here.

The Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine meeting on "Trust in Science: Vaccines." held January 29, 2019 provided a superb review of the social, cultural and historical contexts of skepticism about vaccines. Vaccine hesitancy and refusal has recently gained widespread attention amid measles outbreaks in multiple U.S. states, Europe and other countries that are largely due to vaccine hesitancy and/or refusal(1,2). Everyone interested in the problem of vaccine acceptance and the unnecessary suffering from preventable infectious diseases should listen to the webcast.

This commentary is coauthored with Daniel Salmon

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When We Reason Badly about Vaccine Refusal
Mark Navin

Department of Philosophy, Oakland University

Mark Navin, Ph.D. specializes in applied ethics, bioethics, and social and political philosophy. You can read more about his work here.

I am delighted to contribute to the conversation—on Trust in Science: Vaccines—kicked off by informative and insightful talks from Erica Kimmerling, Elena Conis, and Jeffrey Baker. I want to reflect on how these speakers’ contributions can inform our assessment of the kinds of arguments people make in their attempts to understand and respond to vaccine refusal. Vaccine advocates commonly criticize the arguments offered by vaccine refusers. I think vaccine advocates can protect their own cognitive hygiene by holding themselves to similarly high standards of reasoning.
 

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Protective Motherhood and Distrust in Science
Jennifer Reich

Department of Sociology, University of Colorado, Denver

Jennifer Reich, Ph.D., is a sociologist whose research has examined how parents come to reject vaccines for their children, in dialog with physicians, complementary healthcare providers, activists, and researchers. She is the author of Calling the Shots: Why Parents Reject Vaccines (NYU Press). You can read more about her work here.

When I began writing about mothers and vaccine refusal in 2014, I would be regularly asked at conferences and by colleagues and students, “How did you know vaccines would become a big issue?” The easy answer, the one of which Elena Conis so eloquently reminds us, is that vaccines have been a big issue since their inception. In fact, vaccine refusal, distrust of government policies that require use of vaccines, and the claims of safety and efficacy are not new.

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Educating the Public, Cultivating Trust
Daniel Salmon

Department of International Health, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University

Daniel Salmon, Ph.D.'s research and practice focus on determining the individual and community risks of vaccine refusal, understanding factors that impact vaccine acceptance, evaluating and improving state laws providing exemptions to school immunization requirements, developing systems and science in vaccine safety, and effective vaccine risk communication. You can read more about his work here.

The Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine meeting on "Trust in Science: Vaccines." held January 29, 2019 provided a superb review of the social, cultural and historical contexts of skepticism about vaccines. Vaccine hesitancy and refusal has recently gained widespread attention amid measles outbreaks in multiple U.S. states, Europe and other countries that are largely due to vaccine hesitancy and/or refusal(1,2). Everyone interested in the problem of vaccine acceptance and the unnecessary suffering from preventable infectious diseases should listen to the webcast.

This commentary is coauthored with Neal Halsey.

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Insights from the Collections
The Consortium's collections provide many opportunities to learn more about the history of vaccinations and public perceptions of science.

 
Our cross-institutional search tool allows researchers to investigate materials across multiple institutions from a single interface. With more than 4.4 million catalog records of rare books and manuscripts, the Consortium's search hub offers scholars and the public the ability to identify and locate relevant materials.

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Some archival materials related to this topic include:

Maurice Hilleman Vaccinology collection, American Philosophical Society Library
Poliomyelitis Records, American Philosophical Society Library
Albert B. Sabin papers, Rockefeller Archive Center
Evidences of the Utility of Vaccine Innoculation: Intended for the Information of Parents (1801), Huntington Library
Report on vaccine virus and on the results of vaccination in the public schools of St. Louis, 1912, Huntington Library
Edward Miller papers, Columbia University Libraries
Vaccination Tracts: Preface and Supplement (1879), The Library Company of Philadelphia
Lyman Spalding Papers, Harvard Library
Dorothy M. Horstmann papers, Yale University Library
Pasteur Vaccine Company ephemera, College of Physicians of Philadelphia
 
The History of Vaccines: An Educational Resource by the College of Physicians of Philadelphia
 
Related publications from our speakers:

Vaccine Nation: America's Changing Relationship with Immunization
Vaccines, Pesticides, and Narratives of Exposure and Evidence
Vaccination Resistance in Historical Perspective
A mother's responsibility: women, medicine, and the rise of contemporary vaccine skepticism in the United States
The Machine in the Nursery
History Lesson: Vaccine Trials in the Classroom
Eugenics and the Origins of Autism
Autism at 70--redrawing the boundaries
The first measles vaccine

See also recent work from our fellows:
Road to Eradication: Global Polio Vaccine Testing in the Cold War