Is The Anti-Vaxx Movement A White Privilege Issue?

February 11, 2015  |  

The child vaccination debate is raging strong. Some parents and politicians oppose vaccinating children (or making it mandatory that they are vaccinated). Others swear it is necessary. But there seems to be a side to this issue some have overlooked, according to XO Jane.

The anti-vaxx issue runs along race and income lines.

Kids without a full complement of routine vaccinations can be put into two categories–the first is the “undervaccinated,” kids who have not gotten all of their childhood shots. These children tend live near the poverty level, reside in a central city, their mothers are most often single and without a college degree, and most are Black, according to a study published in Pediatrics.

Most often these children do not have access to healthcare and their parents have to either scrap up money for vaccinations or take time to search around for free vaccinations.

Meanwhile, children whose parents choose not to have them vaccinated are referred to as “free riders,” meaning their health gets a “free ride” from the immunity of people who have been vaccinated. And unlike the parents of undervaccinated children, the parents of free riders tend to be married, college-educated, and with a household income that averages more than $75,000. More glaringly, they are a majority white–and they have easy access to vaccinations.

So is this move to ban vaccinations a white privilege problem?

Anti-vaxxers argue that the vaccination itself is much more deadly than the risk of contracting a vaccine-preventable disease. They believe there are other ways to keep their children healthy, such as breastfeeding, high quality nutrition, and controlled environments.

But for poor kids, these benefits are out of reach. Low-income mothers often don’t take full maternity leaves in fear of being fired, and thus can’t regularly breast feed. Add to this, many low-income families don’t have access to fresh, healthy foods. And forget controlled environment as working moms depend on some form of childcare, usually institutionalized daycare.

When kids do get sick, it costs poor families more in many ways–loss income from time off from work to care for sick children, for example. More privileged moms, those of free riders, can afford to take time off from work and can take their children to get quality healthcare.

Bottom line: “Undervaccinated children simply don’t have access to the mythical protection free riders’ parents invoke,” reports XO Jane.

Also families living in poverty who depend on government assistance, most often have to prove their children have been vaccinated, though this does vary state by state. In fact, social services will view lack of vaccinations as proof of neglect, which could lead to children being taken out of the household.

“A poor black woman refusing to give her kid an MMR shot might not just get the side-eye. She might earn herself a visit from Social Services,” reports XO Jane.

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