Type of Work

Research Paper

Publication Date

Summer 8-15-2021


This summer Professor Starr and I conducted research on vaccine hesitancy amongst mothers in Vermont with alternative lifestyles, a project that grew out of my personal history—growing up and attending a Waldorf school with many vaccine-hesitant families—and my academic interest in public health, especially regarding the recent global outbreak of COVID-19. Given the recent media attention to vaccines, especially the COVID-19 vaccine, I wanted to talk to mothers who I knew had been vaccine hesitant before the pandemic in order to better understand their views and learn of any changes in their beliefs. As my prior reading of vaccine hesitancy in mothers had indicated, the mothers I spoke with all discussed concerns regarding the safety and efficacy of vaccines and expressed skepticism about being able to trust both mainstream general practitioners as well as pharmaceutical companies. They contrasted their distrust of biomedicine with their faith in alternative medicine and “natural living” practices. However, whereas previous literature on the issue of vaccine hesitancy typically concludes that it is a social problem where "communities" are the strongest influence on vaccine choice, the women I spoke with frequently invoked the concept of a “gut feeling” as a reason not to vaccinate, something I argue is inherently linked to a culturally particular understanding of an authentic self rooted in feelings and/or the body.

Hamilton Areas of Study


Hamilton Sponsoring Organization

Levitt Public Affairs Center

Hamilton Scholarship Series

Levitt Summer Research Fellowship

Hamilton Faculty Advisor

Julie Starr

Included in

Anthropology Commons