Source of article The Jury Room - Keene Trial Consulting.

Here in the US, we have heard stories about unvaccinated children with measles going to an amusement park and exposing others with fragile health to measles. How big of a problem is the anti-vaccination movement in the US? CNN offers these statistics (courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control): 

95% of children in kindergarten have had vaccines for preventable diseases, including two doses of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. But that figure is not spread evenly across the country.

82% of children in Colorado have had the two-dose MMR vaccine that doctors say is necessary. In Mississippi, virtually all children in kindergarten (99.7%) are vaccinated.

26 states have not reported meeting a government target of 95% coverage for MMR.A global sample shows us that belief in conspiracy theories is associated with vaccine skepticism. 

In other words, we don’t really know but the number varies across the country. If you are not a parent who chooses to avoid vaccinations for your children—you may wonder what reasons those parents have for what researchers call “vaccination hesitancy”. Here’s a clue—it isn’t about facts, it’s about morals. 

What these researchers did is examined moral values by looking at the “six foundations of moral values”. This is a list of “values” developed by the leading researcher in the “disgust” area (which as you may know, we have blogged about ad nauseam). 

The values most strongly associated with the decision to not vaccinate were these: purity (associated with disapproval of acts seen as “disgusting or unnatural”), and liberty (valuing individual freedom). And the researchers say there data contains correlational links, not causal ones. 

The researchers suggest making interventions target these specific moral beliefs and offer these wordy efforts at marketing to their values. 

For moral purity: “Boost your child’s natural defenses against diseases! Keep your child pure of infections! Vaccinate!”

And for liberty: “Take personal control of your child’s health! Vaccinations can help your child and others be free to lead a happy and healthy life!”

We never said the researchers would come up with pithy and memorable themes—we just mentioned they had ideas about them. From a litigation advocacy strategy, while you may not have cases with anti-vaccination themes—this can be used as an example of a strongly held belief against which you wish to inoculate (pun intended) your case. You want to identify what the moral values are underlying those “hot button” issues, and develop case themes that skirt those issues (so that you avoid knee-jerk reactions and closing minds). 

Avnika B. Amin, Robert A. Bednarczyk, Cara E. Ray, Kala J. Melchiori, Jesse Graham, Jeffrey R. Huntsinger & Saad B. Omer. 2017. Association of moral values with vaccine hesitancy. Nature Human Behaviour volume 1,  pages 873–880 (2017)