Abstract

Vaccine-hesitant parents are often portrayed as misinformed dilettantes clinging to unscientific Internet chatter and a debunked study that linked the MMR vaccine and autism. While this depiction may be an accurate portrayal of a small (but vocal) subset, scholars have unearthed a more complex picture that casts vaccine hesitancy in the context of broader notions of lack of trust in government and industry. At the same time, commentators have highlighted limitations of the vaccine injury compensation program and US Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg have argued that preemption laws that provide vaccine manufacturers with broad legal immunities create “a regulatory vacuum in which no one ensures that vaccine manufacturers adequately take account of scientific and technological advancements when designing or distributing their products.” In short, the discussions surrounding vaccine hesitancy that dominate public discourse detract from serious debate as to whether amendments to vaccine-related laws can address the limitations of the existing framework governing immunizations. This commentary examines these issues through a public health law lens.

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