Summary of Values and Vaccines

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Scientists and journalists alike often assume that parents who refuse to vaccinate their children are, at best, uninformed, or, at worst, willfully negligent. But what if there were another side to this story? In this groundbreaking essay, science journalist Maggie Koerth-Baker goes in search of a new, philosophically-based narrative to explain why parents – especially the well-off, and well-educated – reject mandatory vaccination for their children. getAbstract recommends her article to everyone working in public health and to the parents of young children.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why mandatory vaccination matters for public health,
  • Why some parents reject vaccination even when the risks of doing so are known, and
  • Why the conflict between scientists and anti-vaxxers is philosophical in nature.

About the Author

Maggie Koerth-Baker writes the monthly column Eureka for The New York Times Magazine. Her most recent book is Before the Lights Go Out: Conquering the Energy Crisis Before It Conquers Us.



The rationale behind vaccination laws and the risks – both personal and societal – of not vaccinating a child are manifold. Vaccinations work to prevent disease in the vaccinated individual; but they also work to create “herd immunity”: When the majority of people vaccinate, it cuts down on chances that an infection will spread widely if someone contracts the disease.

Studies show that most people know the reasons vaccination matters, so why would any parent push back against the principle of mandatory...

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