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Against medical advice: the anti‐consumption of vaccines

Michael S.W. Lee (The University of Auckland Business School, Auckland, New Zealand)
Mike Male (The University of Auckland Business School, Auckland, New Zealand)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 1 November 2011




The purpose of this paper is to discuss the main reasons driving the anti‐vaccination movement (AVM) and relate similarities and differences of the AVM with the anti‐consumption of other products.


The paper conducts thematic analysis of various online sources, including medical journals, blogs, science articles and business/social science databases.


First, the paper outlines the main themes (religion, freedom of choice, risk, and uncertainty) driving the anti‐consumption of vaccines. Second, it explains why the AVM is a unique and paradoxical form of anti‐consumption. Third, although much anti‐consumption behaviour is motivated by the belief that rejecting certain acts of consumption may be beneficial to society, the paper uses the AVM to show that not all anti‐consumption behavior has clear‐cut benefits for society.

Research limitations/implications

While this is predominately a conceptual paper, a commentary on the AVM has never been attempted by business scholars. This is surprising since business scholars are able to bring a more impartial viewpoint to the debate than both the medical establishment and proponents of natural therapy. As this paper is not associated with medical interests, nor the AVM, the focus is on the welfare of consumers and as such, a more detached perspective may be useful in this controversial area.

Practical implications

Since the AVM debate is filled with much uncertainty, the paper recommends a more balanced/respectful approach by the medical community, pro‐vaccinators and the AVM.


Unlike previous work in the area, this research intersects commercial, societal, and medical interests. It also highlights AVM as an interesting case where large groups of people sharing similar anti‐consumption behaviours are actually incompatible with one another.



Lee, M.S.W. and Male, M. (2011), "Against medical advice: the anti‐consumption of vaccines", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 28 No. 7, pp. 484-490.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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