This work is accessible only to Trinity faculty, staff, and students. Off-Campus Trinity users should click the "Off-Campus Download" button below, then enter your Trinity username and password when prompted.

Date of Award

Spring 2012

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Political Science

First Advisor

Stefanie Chambers


Inspired by the claim that vaccines cause autism, this thesis explores the many facets of the debate surrounding immunizations in our country. My research questions are: (1) How has vaccination policy evolved in America and how has it influenced U.S. Health Policy?; and (2) What effect has the anti-vaccination movement had on the American public? The development of vaccinations is commonly accepted as one of the most significant scientific developments of all time. Vaccination policy in American politics plays a significant role in the individual’s greater perception of general health care policy in our country. Additionally, because of the unique timing and influential role immunizations play in the lives of young children, many citizens who are also parents use vaccination policy as a baseline for voting patterns and political views. The intensity of the anti-vaccination movement contrasted with the immense scientific research and funding directed toward advancing immunization technology provokes political dialogue, and influences fierce social movements.

Health care is at the center of American politics today and the health of our country’s children is at the forefront of the minds of schoolteachers, parents and politicians. Beginning with an examination of the historical path of vaccination policy in America, this paper will shed light on the decision-making process of political leaders with regard to the costs and benefits of immunization policy at both the societal and individual level. Furthermore, in cases where a child is not vaccinated, I plan to understand the role government plays as the ultimate guarantor of health in this country. I will look into several controversies that have rocked American politics such as the introduction of the small pox vaccine, the alleged connection that autism is caused by vaccines and the recent debate about the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, specifically the examination of the issues surrounding the requirement that all young women in Texas be given the vaccination as a prerequisite for school entry. I also plan to examine the role government plays in cases where families cannot afford immunizations. I find this topic to be engaging because of its many facets: the implications on the American family, politics, voting patterns, and its connection to sensationalized journalistic tendencies. While the dimensions of this debate remain intriguing, it is most significant on the political stage because of its role in the timeless debate concerning the balance between an individual’s right to refuse a vaccine with the right of the public to be protected from disease.


Senior thesis completed at Trinity College for the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Accessible to members of the Trinity community only.