From iatrogenesis to vaccine skepticism: US mothers’ negative vaccine perceptions and non‐vaccination practices as reverberations of medical harm


Vaccine skepticism, and the related practices of selective‐ or non‐vaccination, has steadily grown in the twenty‐first century, especially among US mothers. The phenomenon has been especially pronounced in Oregon, which ranked first nationally for the number of kindergarteners with nonmedical exemptions in 2018. Based on 12 months of digital research in Oregon in the context of the COVID‐19 pandemic, my findings suggest that mothers’ vaccine skepticism emerges from experiences of iatrogenesis from childhood through childbirth. While existing literature analyzes medical distrust among BIPOC communities as related to historical and ongoing iatrogenesis, scholars often portray vaccine skepticism among white US mothers as related to “neoliberal parenting” and “intensive mothering.” By analyzing mothers’ vaccine skepticism as an outgrowth of iatrogenesis, this article underscores the long‐term ramifications of systematic medical harm against women in the US. This finding is particularly relevant amid public health crises, when mitigation depends upon vaccine utilization. [vaccines, medical distrust, US mothers, iatrogenesis, autonomy]