Monday, February 17, 2014

Social Norms Damaging Vaccination Rates

In most parts of North America the social norm is for parents to vaccinate their families. This norm is also implicated by regulations that are enforced by public school systems to prevent the spread of disease among students. Some coastal Californians have their own norms when it comes to vaccines, which conflict the viewpoints of the rest of the country. Parents in this part of the country are increasingly applying to refuse vaccinations for their children, under the belief that they actually have an adverse effect on their bodies and the spread of disease. The decision to forego vaccination is spreading on the west coast slowly but surely, with numbers of declined vaccinations on the rise in Washington and Oregon.

The problem with this trend is that when enough families go without their vaccinations, disease directly impacts their domain. The spread of disease out of these non-vaccinating epicenters can lead to epidemics such as the Whooping Cough epidemic of 2010, which originated in that same area of the west coast where an alarming 9% of parents neglected to vaccinate their babies. The rising popularity of this decision not to vaccinate comes out of a trending social norm that can be described as "vaccine fear culture".

The parents in these coastal areas of California, Washington, and Oregon are strongly influenced by one another. The social norm is to exchange parenting and wellness advice with other parents, and to regularly read up on those topics. This progressive parenting culture has good intentions behind it, but it can be dangerous when uninformed ideas become popular belief. Luckily this growing demographic is traceable in it's popularity with distinct parenting styles, and the fact that this behavior is bred in clumps of tight knit communities that all express the same skepticism in relatively routine medical practices.

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