Co-Opting Discrimination to Augment Privilege: Misuse of Claims of Discrimination by Anti-Vaccine Activists

19 Pages Posted: 15 Aug 2016 Last revised: 26 Aug 2016

See all articles by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss

University of California Hastings College of the Law

Date Written: August 10, 2016

Abstract

In their efforts to fight against tightening of school immunization requirements anti-vaccine activists have repeatedly claimed that such tightening discriminates against, or even segregates, intentionally non-vaccinated children. They have drawn on language and imagery created in response to racial discrimination against minority groups. This essay explains why such claims are legally incorrect - and pragmatically inappropriate. First, unvaccinated children are meaningfully different from the vaccinated. Second, not vaccinating is a choice, and not an immutable characteristic. Treating non-vaccinating parents differently is closer to different treatment of those who drink and drive than to different treatment of racial minorities. Finally, the use of the discrimination language is troubling here. Most parents that do not vaccinate (though not all) belong to privileged groups. Vaccine refusal is much more common among white, middle class people. Using the language created to protect disadvantaged minorities from oppression in this context is incorrect and jarring.

Keywords: Vaccines, Discrimination, Civil Rights, Equal Protection

JEL Classification: J15, K10

Suggested Citation

Reiss, Dorit Rubinstein, Co-Opting Discrimination to Augment Privilege: Misuse of Claims of Discrimination by Anti-Vaccine Activists (August 10, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2821350 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2821350

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss (Contact Author)

University of California Hastings College of the Law ( email )

200 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States
415-5654844 (Phone)
415-5654865 (Fax)

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