Which Vaccine News Is Trustworthy?

Trust pharmacists, nurses, and doctors to communicate factual vaccine news

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Many Americans hold beliefs about the influenza vaccine that are at odds with today’s scientific evidence.

These misconceptions are often shared on Facebook and Instagram.

This issue is one reason the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a press release that it ‘welcomes the commitment by Facebook to ensure that users find facts about vaccines across digital networks where people seek out information and advice.’

The WHO said on September 4, 2019, ‘Facebook will direct millions of its users to WHO’s accurate and reliable vaccine information in several languages, to ensure that vital health messages reach people who need them the most.’

The World Health Organization says ‘vaccine misinformation is a major threat to global health that could reverse decades of progress made in tackling preventable diseases.’

‘Major digital organizations have a responsibility to their users -- to ensure that they can access facts about vaccines and health. It would be great to see social and search platforms come together to leverage their combined reach.’

‘We want digital actors doing more to make it known around the world that #VaccinesWork.’

Previously, the WHO wrote ‘All healthcare workers giving vaccines have a responsibility to listen to and try to understand a patient's concerns, fears, and beliefs about vaccination and to take them into consideration when offering vaccines.’ 

‘These efforts will not only help to strengthen the bond of trust between staff and patient but will also help determine which, if any, arguments might be most effective in persuading these patients to accept vaccination.’

‘These online efforts must be matched by tangible steps by governments and the health sector to promote trust in vaccination and respond to the needs and concerns of parents,’ concluded the WHO.

"There is a new disease rampaging the world and it is highly contagious. This disease has already caused irreparable harm in the form of human suffering and death," shared Crockett Tidwell, RPh, CDE, Clinical Services Manager, Vaccine Specialist with United Supermarkets Pharmacy.

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"This disease did not exist in the world of our grandparents or great grandparents and it was created by humans. One hundred years ago things like polio and measles devastated families and communities." 

"Now, the new disease called 'vaccine misinformation' threatens to set healthcare back decades. As healthcare providers, we need to take every opportunity to immunize our patients with facts. Our grandparents would be proud," Tidwell said.

Looking at the latest research, there are 3 potential tactics to promote the truth about flu shots:

No. 1: Just the facts

  • Recent academic studies have shown that presenting survey respondents with facts about vaccine safety can decrease the extent to which survey respondents believe that vaccines are unsafe. 

But, there’s a catch.

  • People who become less likely to believe misinformation about vaccine safety are not necessarily more likely to get vaccinated, due to something scholars call the “backfire-effect.” 
  • The backfire-effect occurs when efforts to provide people with information which challenges their prior beliefs can actually make them more resistant to taking action based on that information.

No. 2: Bust the myths

  • ‘Myth-busting’ is closely tied to the first approach, except that it frequently involves exposing people to a piece of misinformation about the flu vaccine in an effort to discredit the myth.
  • That of course, is problematic, given that repeating the myth might increase the odds of people to believe it.
  • Therefore, even when “myth-busting” works, the effects might not last a very long time.

No. 3: ‘If you get vaccinated, I will too … ’ 

  • Another tactic is to appeal to people’s desire to reciprocate. Recent research found that cultures that focus on collective benefits have higher rates of compliance with vaccines.
  • And, communicating the concept of “herd immunity” improves an individual’s willingness to get vaccinated.  

Correcting misinformation about the flu vaccines is hard, and the academic literature provides mixed signals about approaches to tackling this problem.

The best evidence suggests that the most effective way of dealing with misinformation is not spreading it in the first place. 

This means, people often benefit from receiving the right information, at the right time, from a healthcare provider they trust.

Published by Precision Vaccinations