“If You Look at the Impact That Jenny Mccarthy Had:” Risk, Fear, and Vaccination

Friday, 20 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Terra MANCA, University of Alberta, Canada
motions, especially fear, are prevalent forces in perceptions of vaccine-related risks and likely vaccine uptake rates. In many parts of the world that were previously well-vaccinated, including the Canadian province of Alberta, vaccine uptake is well below what is necessary to protect populations from diseases. As such, health professionals in Alberta are tasked with allaying patient fears about the risks associated with vaccines in their efforts to promote vaccine uptake. In this paper, I address how thirty-four Albertan physicians (N=27) and nurses (N=7) accounted for patients and parents’ beliefs, rationality, and fears about vaccination. The physicians and nurses who I interviewed critiqued the role of the media and prominent anti-vaccination advocates who they argued promoted the vaccine fears that their patients expressed. In fact, they talked about using personal stories to evoke parents’ emotional understandings of the risks that vaccine refusal could pose. Health professionals’ experiences with patients’ vaccine fears offer a vantage point from which to observe the role of emotion in the communication of medical knowledge, interpretation of patients’ anxieties, and the navigation of perceived risks.