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Vaccine Hesitancy as a Consequence of Social Media Misinformation

February 26, 2021  · 3 min read

The rise of mass media and exposure to diverse sources of information can impose both positive and negative implications to influence a view, opinion and attitude towards an issue, especially with regard to vaccines. Messages based upon fear, lack of evidence or even myths may impact the decisions individuals make in being vaccinated against infectious diseases such as influenza, pneumonia as well as COVID-19.

A recent article written by Karen Nikos-Rose suggests that credible sources such as Universities and health institutions can generate positive attitudes toward vaccines rather than misinformation, especially with the help of fact check tags or when a post is verified. These simple actions can play a vital role in combating vaccine myths. Contrary to some beliefs it is vital that health experts respond to misinformation immediately.

Prof. Jingwen Zhang, lead author from the University of California study states,

“The most important thing I learned from this paper is that fact checking is effective…giving people a simple label can change their attitude. Secondly, I am calling for more researchers and scientists to engage in public health and science communications. We need to be more proactive. We are not using our power right now.”

Facts about the effectiveness of vaccines in protecting and maintaining the health and well-being of at-risk populations including older persons and those with chronic conditions is available yet the risk of misinformation continues to influence behavior towards vaccines. Combating misinformation on vaccines through social media is a tested action to prevent the growth of vaccine hesitancy and encourage positive messages towards vaccines to reduce the spread of diseases that burden global public health. It is also imperative to understand the perspectives, views and opinions of at-risk populations towards vaccines to better respond to knowledge gaps and ensure messages are not only evidence based but tailored to answer health concerns and needs.

As a proud member of the Vaccine Safety Net, the IFA is committed to building awareness, knowledge and improving messaging on vaccine safety through a collaborative effort between physicians, public health professionals, policy makers, and civil society to ensure older persons, including those with complex health needs, are confident to access safe and affordable vaccines to live healthily.

To join this global movement of combating vaccine hesitancy and building trust and confidence in vaccines that will enable protection against life altering diseases, connect with experts and learn more in our monthly newsletter.

Dr. Gaëtan Gavazzi is a Professor at Grenoble-Alpes University and expert specializing in Geriatrics, Internal Medicine, Vaccines and Healthy Aging. He has published more than 120 peer reviewed papers and participated in nearly 500 events at national and international levels. His research related to this topic includes communicating the benefits of vaccines and analyzing vaccine hesitancy and acceptance.

Mr. Gary Finnegan is Editor of Vaccines Today, an online platform that facilitates an informed discussion on vaccinations. The content of Vaccines Today is produced through interviews with experts from academia, patient groups, and industry experts, along with reports based on scientific literature and conferences. Gary is also the author of the Vaccine Misinformation Management Field Guide, which provides strategic guidance and coordinated action to rapidly counter vaccine misinformation.

IFA is always looking to expand resources on vaccine safety for older adults and those with chronic conditions and welcomes you to submit it to VacciNet.

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