Keys to understanding the resistance of anti-vaccination groups: a public scientific-technological controversy

Obdulia Torres González


This article discusses the debate about vaccination as a case of public scientific technological controversy. In the vaccination controversy there is a scientific question, the effectiveness of vaccines in the elimination of diseases; a question of risk assessment, possible adverse effects and the possibility that immunization causes idiopathic diseases; an ethical question, the balance of rights between the two groups and the limits of the freedom of choice of treatment; and a political issue, who must take decisions about immunization and whether immunization should be mandatory. The results of the analysis of the controversy suggest that the attitudes of the anti-vaccination groups towards vaccination are largely explained by their worldview which comes majorly from New Age beliefs. This worldview causes differences in the interpretation of evidence, law, risk and science.


Antivaccination; Risk; Worldview; Experts, Nature


Aibar, E. (2002). “El conocimiento científico en las controversias públicas”. En E. Aibar y M. Quintanilla, Cultura tecnológica. Estudios de ciencia, tecnología y sociedad. Barcelona: Ed. Horsori, 105-126.

Carozzi, Julia (1993). “Definiciones de la New Age desde las Ciencias Sociales”. Boletín de Lecturas Sociales y Económicas, Año 2, Nº 5, 19-24.

Charlton, B. (1996). “The Scope and Nature of Epidemiology”. Journal of Clin Epidemiol, Vol. 49, No. 6, 623-626.

Douglas, M., Wildavsky, A. (1982). Risk and Cuilture. California: University of California Press.

Douglas, M., Galvez, M. (1990). “The self as risk taker: a cultural theory of contagion in relation to AIDS”. Sociological Review, Volume 38, Issue 3, 445–464.

Fischhoff, B. et al. (1978). “How safe is safe enough? A Psychometric Study of Attitudes towards technological Risks and Benefits”. Policy Sciences 9, 127-152.

Fitzpatrick, M. (2004). MMR and Autism. What Parents Need to Know. London: Routledge.

Gieryn, T. (1995). “Boundaries of science”. En S. Jasanoff et al. Handbook of Science, Technology and Society. London: Sage Publications, 393-443.

Hervieu, B., Léger, D. (1979). Le retour a la nature, «au fond de la forêt… l’Etat». Paris: Le Seuil.

Ibargüen, J. et al. (2004). “Neorrurales: dificultades durante el proceso de asentamiento en el medio rural aragonés”, Informes 5 (2004-3). ISBN 978-84-92582-32-7.

Instituto de Salud Carlos III (s.f.). Estudio seroepidemiológico: situación de las enfermedades vacunables en España. Ed. Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Centro Nacional de Epidemiología.

Jasanoff, S. (1987). “Contested Boundaries in Policy-Relevant Science”. Social Studies of Science, Vol. 17, No. 2 (May, 1987), 195-230.

Kahneman, D., Tversky, T. (1987). “Teoría Prospectiva; un análisis de la decisión bajo riesgo”. Infancia y aprendizaje, 30, 95-124.

Larson, H.J. et al. (2016). “The State of Vaccine Confidence 2016: Global Insights Through a 67-Country Survey”. EBioMedicine, 12, 295-301.

Leach, M., Fairhead, J. (2007). Vaccine Anxieties Global Science, Child Health and Society. London: Eartscan.

Martínez-Diz, S., Martínez Romero, M., Fernández-Prada, M., Cruz Piqueras, M., Molina Ruano, R., Fernández Sierra, M.A. (2014). “Demandas y expectativas de padres y madres que rechazan la vacunación y perspectiva de los profesionales sanitarios sobre la negativa a vacunar”. Anales de Pediatría, 80 (6), 370-37.

Martin, B., (2014). Controversy Manual. Sparsnäs, Sweden: Irene Publishing.

Martin, B., Richards, E. (1995). “Scientific Knowledge, Controversy, and Public Decision Making”. En S. Jasanoff et al. (eds.), Handbook of Science and Technology Studies. California: Sage Publications.

Mazur, A. (1981). The Dynamics of Technical Controversies. Whasington DC: Communication Press.

McKee, Ch., Bohannon, K. (2016). “Exploring the Reasons Behind Parental Refusal of Vaccines”. BSJ Pediatr Pharmacol Ther. Mar-Apr; 21(2): 104–109. DOI: 10.5863/1551-6776-21.2.104.

McMullin, E. (1987). “Scientific Controversies and its termination”. En H. Engelhardt y A. Caplan, Scientific Controversies. Case studies in the resolution and closure or disputes in science and technology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Meszaros, Jacqueline R., Asch, David A., Baron, Jonathan, Hershey, John C., Kunreuther, Howard, Schwartz-Buzaglo, Joanne (1996). “Cognitive Processes and the Decisions of Some Parents to Forego Pertussis Vaccination for Their Children”. J Clin Epidemiol, Vol. 49, No. 6, 697-703.

Miller, E. (2015). “Controversies and challenges of vaccination: an interview with Elizabeth Miller”. BMC Medicine, 13: 267.

Milton, H., Mercier, H. (2015). “Cognitive Obstacles to Pro-Vaccination Beliefs”. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Vol. 19, No. 11, 633-636.

Ministerio de Sanidad, Política Social e Igualdad (2011). Análisis de situación de terapias naturales. Documento de trabajo.

Mora, Joan (2008). “Homeopatía e inmunología”. Boletín informativo de la Liga para la Liberta de Vacunación, nº 16.

Morgan, M. (2010), “Voice and the Facts and Observations of Experience”. En W. González, New Methodological Perspectives on Observation and Experimentation in Science: Coruña: Netbiblo.

Nelkin, D. (1992). Controversy. Politics of technical decisions. California: Sage Publications.

Nogué i Font, J. (1988). “El fenómeno neorrural”. Agricultura y Sociedad, nº 47, 145-175.

Rogers, A., Pilgrim, D. (1995). “The risk of resistance: Perspectives on the mass Childhood Immunisation Programme”. En J. Gabe (ed.), Medicine, Health and Risk: Sociological Approaches: Oxford: Blackwell.

Urteaga, E. (2012). “Los determinantes culturales en la percepción social del riesgo”. Argumentos de Razón Técnica, nº 15, 39-53.

Vaqué, J. (2003). “Inmunidad de grupo significado e importancia”. Revista Clínica Electrónica en Atención Primaria. URL: Acceso 13/07/2018.

Weber, E. U. (2011). “Risk: Empirical Studies on Decision and Choice”. En N. J. Smelser, P. B. Baltes, International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences. Pergamon: Elsevier.

Weinberg, A. (1974). “Science and transcience”. Minerva 10(2): 209-222.

WHO (2013). Causality assessment of adverse event following immunization (AEFI): user manual for the revised WHO classification. WHO Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data.

Williamson, S. (2007). The Vaccination Controversy: The rise, reign and fall of compulsory vaccination for smallpox. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.

Wolfe, R.M., Sharp L.K., Lipsky, M.S. (2002). “Content and Design Attributes of Antivaccination Web Sites”. Journal of American Medical Association, Vol. 287, nº 24, 3245-3248.


Copyright (c) 2018 Obdulia Torres González

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.