Vaccine narratives and public health: Investigating criticisms of H1N1 pandemic vaccination

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Vaccine hesitancy is often understood and explored on the level of individual decision-making. However, questions surrounding the risk and efficacy of vaccination are evident in wider public discourse; social narratives of vaccination inform and impact on the individual level. This paper takes a narrative analysis
approach from the sociology of health to examine data drawn from a wider study on global public health responses to the H1N1 pandemic. The paper concentrates upon criticisms to mass vaccination as recounted within the Council of Europe’s debate of the handling of H1N1. It shows that three narratives were particularly dominant: problematizing the use of vaccination as a public health response; criticising the efficacy of the vaccines; and, questioning the safety of the strategy. This debate presents an important case study in understanding the way in which vaccines are problematized within the public discourse.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
JournalPLoS currents
VolumeEdition 1
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2015


  • vaccine hesitancy
  • public health
  • Council of Europe
  • contestation
  • H1N1
  • pandemic


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