Date of Award

Summer 2020

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Dr. Laura Stengrim

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Dr. Wendy Atkins-Sayre

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Dr. Paul Strait

Committee Member 3 School



This thesis explores the phenomenon of the anti-vaccination movement and existing publications documenting significant points in its resurgence in the late 20th and early 21st century following the now redacted publication by the former Dr. Wakefield asserting a correlation between children receiving vaccinations and children exhibiting the onset of developmental disorders, with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) garnering the most public attention. With increasing numbers of parents delaying or forbidding their children from receiving vaccinations, along with the re-emergence of previously eradicated disease outbreaks and casualties, questions about the salience of Wakefield’s anti-vaccination statements arise. Investigation here is key to understanding how the general public decides whether or not to adhere to a conspiratorial form of argumentation which claims the healthcare system intends to create illnesses/disabilities only to sell consumers treatment. This study analyzes the 1998 Wakefield publication “Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children,” Autism Speaks’ 2007-2015 “Learn the Signs/World of Autism” campaign, Wakefield’s 2016 documentary “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe” through disability rhetoric and health rhetoric to identify the salience of the methods of persuasion and argumentation that may have contributed to the trends and resurgence of the anti-vaccination movement.