What if we told you that vaccine hesitancy didn’t start with Jenny McCarthy? In 1722, not long after the first successful vaccination efforts were started in the west, there was an English preacher who argued that diseases were God’s punishment for sin, and any attempt to stop them with a vaccine was going against His will. That may sound crazy, but so do the modern world’s reasons for not getting your kids vaccinated.
This week on the podcast, we’re joined by University of Guelph professor Maya Goldenberg who sums up her research with the question “How do we know what to believe?” In other words, she studies how medical information is presented by doctors and how they’re accepted patients.
Much of her research has been specifically about women’s healthcare, but Goldenberg’s been spending more time on a growing area of medical skepticism, which technically goes by the name vaccine hesitancy, but is more universally known as anti-vaxing. That’s not a term Prof. Goldenberg uses, but it does fit with other issues where people have trouble following the best advice of their doctor, whether that’s vaccines or cancer treatments.
As you will hear in this episode of the podcast, it’s not the lack of intelligence in people that believe in the conspiracy theories so much as it might be the fault of medical professionals that can’t take the time to answer questions about a treatment. When people can’t get answers from a doctor, they go out and search for them on the internet, and that’s not always a great idea. So how do we keep people out of internet rabbit holes?
Goldenberg will tackle that and other questions this week on the podcast, including why people trust their own doctor over the medical profession as a collective, and why your family doctor might be too overburdened to make battling conspiracy theories held by their patients a priority. She will talk about how the pandemic has calcified some of those false beliefs about medicine, what it will take to start changing minds, and the Venn diagram between vaccine hesitancy and what we could start calling mask hesitancy(?).
So let’s talk about vaccine hesitancy and other issues between patients and doctors on this week’s Guelph Politicast!
Maya Goldenberg’s book – Vaccine Hesitancy: Public Trust, Expertise, and the War on Science – comes out in the spring. You can follow her on Twitter here, and you can check out a list of some of her scholarly writings by visiting her U of G faculty page here.
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Photo Credit: A gathering of vaccine hesitancy supporters in front of Queen’s Park last October courtesy of the CBC.