Disgust, Contamination, and Vaccine Refusal

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Mark Navin
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conference paper description
Vaccine refusers often seem motivated by disgust, and they invoke ideas of purity, contamination and sanctity. Unfortunately, the emotion of disgust and its companion ideas are not directly responsive to the probabilistic and statistical evidence of research science. It follows that increased efforts to promulgate the results of vaccine science are not likely to contribute to increased rates of vaccination among persons who refuse vaccines because of (what has been called) the ‘ethics of sanctity’. Furthermore, the fact that disgust-based vaccine refusal is not monolithic – vaccine refusers manifest disgust at different objects and invoke different ideas about purity and contamination – further complicates public health efforts to increase vaccination rates.

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