by Heidi Yoston Lawrence
The Ohio State University Press, 2020
Paper: 978-0-8142-5570-4 | eISBN: 978-0-8142-7764-5 | Cloth: 978-0-8142-1433-6
Library of Congress Classification QR189.L39 2020
Dewey Decimal Classification 614.47

Finalist, 2021 Association for the Rhetoric of Science, Technology, and Medicine Book Award
Honorable Mention, Conference on College Composition and Communication Best Book in Technical or Scientific Communication

Debates over vaccination run rampant in the US—from the pages of medical journals, to news coverage about the latest outbreak, to vehement messages passed back and forth online. From the professional level to the personal one, almost everyone has an opinion on vaccinations—and often conversations around this issue pit supporters of vaccinations against “anti-vaxxers.” In Vaccine Rhetorics, Heidi Yoston Lawrence turns a critical eye toward such conversations—proposing a new approach that moves us beyond divisive rhetoric and seeks to better understand the material conditions underlying the debate.
Starting with a key question—If vaccines work, why are they controversial?—and using an approach she calls “material exigence,” Lawrence seeks to understand the material conditions of disease and injury associated with vaccination. Examining four primary motivations—the exigency of disease at the heart of physician views, the desire for eradication from policymakers, concern over injury expressed by parents and patients in online confessionals, and questions about the unknown surrounding potential recipients of the flu vaccine, Lawrence demonstrates the complexity of vaccination skepticism and the need for more nuanced public discourse. In bringing together the voices of those who oppose, question, and support vaccines, Vaccine Rhetorics unearths the material circumstances that lead to differing viewpoints and brings important attention not just to what is said but how and why it is said—providing a useful framework for studying other controversial issues.