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About the Project

This research project explores two research topics:

  1. The ethics and epistemology of vaccine hesitancy
  2. science communication about vaccines.

The Ethics/Epistemology of Vaccine Acceptance

Are the views of vaccine hesitant people in Britain and Germany rational/reasonable/justified? We split this question into two sub-questions. Firstly, is hesitancy more rational/reasonable/justified when consenting to the vaccination of someone else in one's care than when consenting to vaccination in one’s own right? Secondly, is behaviour in keeping with vaccine hesitancy right or wrong in relation to civic obligations in a democracy and, more generally, in relation to personal moral obligations?

We distinguish between the vaccine sceptical and the vaccine hesitant. The former reject prominent expert views, while the latter take a tentative stance on science, or may even be hesitant for reasons that have nothing to do with science. This project considers whether hesitancy as distinct from scepticism can be rational. It examines reasons the vaccine hesitant take themselves to have not to vaccinate. The wish to avoid known – or as yet unknown – side effects may represent one such reason, for example. How should one’s attitude to new vaccines be affected by apparent adverse reactions?

The project will also consider whether vaccine hesitancy is consistent with people's personal moral and political obligations. For example, is vaccine hesitancy consistent with obligations to protect one's family? Again, is hesitancy consistent with civic obligations not to harm and to co-operate with fellow citizens.

Science Communication and Vaccines

The science communication topic is split into two questions. First, what are the right strategies for authorities to pursue in communicating vaccine science? And second, what are the barriers to successful vaccine science communication and how are they best overcome?

The project asks questions about how certain techniques, technologies or practices may be conducive to the acquisition and transmission of medical knowledge and understanding - questions central to the social epistemology agenda of the last two decades under the influence of Goldman, (1999) and Fricker, (2007). It asks these questions both from the individual perspective of the traditionally conceived epistemic agent, and also at the collective level characteristic of public policy.