Date of Award

Summer 7-18-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Gerard A. Hauser

Second Advisor

Lisa B. Keränen

Third Advisor

Lawrence Frey

Abstract

This dissertation theorizes relationships among health publics, medical ethos, and vaccination hesitancy to consider the function of policy communication in relation to public perceptions of U.S. medicine. To do so, I conducted a comparative analysis of official and vernacular rhetorics comprising U.S. mandatory vaccination policy deliberation. In particular, I examined political and professional communication surrounding mandatory health-care worker influenza vaccinations at the national level—and the public backlash that issue generated—to consider the status of private health citizenship, public participation, and medical professionalism for a biotechnological era. As a pragmatic response to something I term biotechnological anxiety, or bioanxiety, this study articulates how concerns born from contextual, systemic factors are encoded into specific rhetorics of health and medicine in exacerbating ways, concerns that health-care workers express in communication about annual vaccinations as a “duty of care.” Insofar as vaccination communication functions as a proxy for other anxieties that undergird contemporary health-care experiences, I conclude that public trust in medicine and the success of this particular medical technology (vaccination) may wane.

Included in

Communication Commons

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