Vaccines, public health and personal choice

MMR shot
Vashaud Jones, 12, grimaces as nurse Marieli Guzman injects him with his measles, mumps and rubella booster shot on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2011 at Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
Lorna Benson | MPR News 2011

Measles are running rampant. More than 700 cases have been reported in the United States since the beginning of 2019. That's the highest number of cases since measles was eradicated here almost two decades ago.

Parents who are reluctant to vaccinate their kids are a big part of the reason — a trend the World Health Organization has labeled one of the top threats to global health. In outbreak areas, like New York, governments are fighting back — threatening fines or jail time for parents who aren't vaccinating. But is that the right tactic?

We talked about vaccine hesitancy. We didn't debate the efficacy of vaccines; the science is in. But we did talk about how to balance personal choice with public safety. Is it as simple as requiring everyone to get vaccinated? Or is there a better way to get people to buy in?


Elisa (EJ) Sobo, a sociocultural anthropologist specializing in health, illness and medicine, and a professor of anthropology at San Diego State University.

Alison Buttenheim, a professor of health policy at the University of Pennsylvania who studies the effects of vaccine hesitancy.

To listen to the full discussion you can use the audio player above.