Not all students returning to school this month will be up to date on their vaccinations and a new paper in Gender&Society by Jennifer Reich,a professor of Sociology from the University of Colorado Denver, correlates it to the class privilege of their mothers.
It's no secret that anti-vaccination hotbeds correlate to income and other lifestyle choices. Put a pin in a Whole Foods store in California and you can find a hotbed of anti-vaccine sentiment in the parking lot and surrounding neighborhood. In America, red states have overwhelming vaccine acceptance while blue states are where the problems are occurring.
The national averages barely tell the tale. The National Network for Immunization Information says that 3 children per 1000 in the U.S. have never received any vaccines - that used to be just religious fundamentalists but now it is common on America's wealthy coasts, with one school in California having only about 25 percent of children vaccinated. The number of un-vaccinated children has led to several recent vaccine-preventable outbreaks in the U.S., including measles and whooping cough.
Reich's paper affirms that children from higher income backgrounds and better educations have parents who intentionally choose to refuse or delay vaccinations out of a belief that they are protecting their children. Basically, they think vaccines are risky and want poor kids to provide herd immunity.
There are some poor kids who don't get vaccines, but that is due to lack of access to health care, not an anti-science mentality of poor parents.
Reich says that "vaccine-refusers" are mothers who have the resources, education, and time to make decisions regarding vaccinations. These middle and upper class mothers instead rely on other intensive practices they see as rendering vaccines less necessary, such as breastfeeding, nutrition and monitoring social interactions and travel.
"Vaccine-refusers see themselves as experts on their own children and question the relevance of public health claims that vaccines are necessary for all children," said Reich. "They trust that "mother's intuition," alongside their own personal research, is the best way to protect their children from potential harm."
Reich's findings suggest women with more time, education, and resources claim greater freedom to reject public health interventions, which potentially carries consequences for under-vaccinated children from lower income backgrounds who may not have access to care. not to mention people who can't get vaccines because of other medical issues.
"Those who can reject vaccines without health risks are able to do so because they are protected by the large portion of the population who is vaccinated," said Reich. "Upper class parents who choose not to vaccinate their kids understand that they could be putting others at risk, but reiterated that their own children are their primary responsibility and suggest other mothers should advocate for their own children."