Public Health in the Age of Anxiety: Religious and Cultural Roots of Vaccine Hesitancy in Canada

Public Health in the Age of Anxiety: Religious and Cultural Roots of Vaccine Hesitancy in Canada

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Edited by Paul Bramadat, Maryse Guay, Julie A. Bettinger, and Réal Roy
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division © 2017
World Rights
408 Pages
ISBN 9781487520120
Published Jun 2017
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Controversies and scepticism surrounding vaccinations, though not new, have increasingly come to the fore as more individuals decide not to inoculate themselves or their children for cultural, religious, or other reasons. Their personal decisions put the rights of the individual on a collision course with public and community safety.

Public Health in the Age of Anxiety enhances both the public and scholarly understanding of the motivations behind vaccine hesitancy in Canada. The volume brings into conversation people working within such fields as philosophy, medicine, epidemiology, history, nursing, anthropology, public policy, and religious studies. The contributors critically analyse issues surrounding vaccine safety, the arguments against vaccines, the scale of anti-vaccination sentiment, public dissemination of medical research, and the effect of private beliefs on individual decision-making and public health. These essays model and encourage the type of productive engagement that is necessary to clarify the value of vaccines and reduce the tension between pro and anti-vaccination groups.

Paul Bramadat is a professor and director of the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society at the University of Victoria. His previous works include Religious Radicalization in Canada and Beyond and Christianity and Ethnicity in Canada both published by University of Toronto Press.

Maryse Guay is a professor in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the Université de Sherbrooke.

Julie A. Bettinger is an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics and a vaccine safety scientist at the Vaccine Evaluation Center at the University of British Columbia.

Réal Roy is an assistant professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Victoria.

Introduction and Theory

Introduction: Seeking a Better Conversation
Paul Bramadat

1. Crises of Trust and Truth: Religion, Culture, and Vaccine Hesitancy in Canada
Paul Bramadat

2. Vaccine Hesitancy: Ethical Considerations from Multiple Perspectives
Kieran C. O’Doherty, Christine Smith, and C. Meghan McMurtry

3. The Role of Risk Perception in Vaccine Hesitancy and the Challenge of Communication
Conrad G. Brunk


4. Learning from Smallpox Inoculation Refusal: Early Scientific Debates and the Evolution of Vaccine Refusal
Réal Roy

5. Not Without Risk: The Complex History of Vaccine Resistance in Central Canada, 1885-1960
Heather MacDougall and Laurence Monnais

Biomedicine, the State and Vaccine Hesitant/Rejecting Communities

6. A Portrait of Vaccine-hesitant Canadians
Maryse Guay, Ève Dubé, and Caroline Laberge

7. Vaccine Hesitancy and the use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Ève Dubé, Chantal Sauvageau, and Dominique Gagnon

8. Epidemiologic Trends in Vaccine-Preventable Diseases and Immunization in Canada
Julie A. Bettinger and Shannon E. MacDonald

9. Canada’s Vaccine Safety System
Monika Naus, Barbara Law, and Aline Rifret

Vaccine Politics in Clinical, Media, and Community Settings

10. “It’s Your Body, Your Decision”: An Anthropological Exploration of HPV Vaccine Hesitancy:
Jennafer Roberts and Lisa M. Mitchell

11. Approaching Vaccine-hesitant Parents – The Clinician's Perspective
François D. Boucher

12. The Roots of Vaccine Hesitancy
André Picard

13. Public Health and Personal Heuristics
Noni E. MacDonald


14. Continuing the Conversation
Paul Bramadat, Julie A. Bettinger, and Maryse Guay




"Public Health in the Age of Anxiety beautifully captures a tangled web of features and factors that contribute to the suboptimal use of immunizations. The authors demonstrate considerable expertise and sophistication in their respective analyses of this newsworthy subject matter, and fill an important gap in the literature. It is a valuable resource for any professional involved in immunization, and provides the best, bar none, overview of the issue in all its complexity."

Jennifer Keelan, Department of Public Health, Concordia University of Edmonton