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Fall 2022, 52.5 pages: 494-509

Vaccination Double Bind: A Study of Pregnancy and COVID-19 Vaccine Decision-Making


COVID-19 vaccination rates among pregnant people are among the lowest in the United States. To better understand how pregnant people are seeking, assembling, and making meaning of different types of information and support, this essay reports on a study of a social media forum created for pregnant and breastfeeding people to discuss COVID-19 vaccination. Data come from 435 forum posts and 17 interviews with forum participants. Findings document four rhetorical strategies that participants developed to move themselves from vaccine uncertainty to vaccine confidence: (1) seeking embodied evidence to personalize vaccine decision making, (2) localizing scientific evidence to their lived contexts, (3) optimizing vaccination, and (4) attending to the affective and relational dimensions of vaccination. These strategies show how participants calibrated two powerful and conflicting rhetorics—one rhetoric that they should get vaccinated as soon as possible, and another that they should make personalized health decisions for their families.

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