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Vaccine Avoidance, The Class Divide, and the Common Good

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 13, 2021

This is such an interesting article on vaccine avoidance in America by a primary care doctor & sociologist who have studied the phenomenon in America and other places. As more data has come in about the pandemic and vaccination program, the main differentiator in whether someone is willing to get a vaccine or not is class.

Over the past four decades, governments have slashed budgets and privatized basic services. This has two important consequences for public health. First, people are unlikely to trust institutions that do little for them. And second, public health is no longer viewed as a collective endeavor, based on the principle of social solidarity and mutual obligation. People are conditioned to believe they’re on their own and responsible only for themselves. That means an important source of vaccine hesitancy is the erosion of the idea of a common good.

Americans began thinking about health care decisions this way only recently; during the 1950s polio campaigns, for example, most people saw vaccination as a civic duty. But as the public purse shrunk in the 1980s, politicians insisted that it’s no longer the government’s job to ensure people’s well-being; instead, Americans were to be responsible only for themselves and their own bodies. Entire industries, such as self-help and health foods, have sprung up on the principle that the key to good health lies in individuals making the right choices.

Almost more than anything else, the pandemic has shown how damaged the US is from decades of neglect of the common good and how vulnerable we are to things like disease and political coups.