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Vaccine frequency: the impact of misinformation on health

Vaccine frequency: the impact of misinformation on health


This text is part of our series on Behind the Scenes of Misinformation in Science


Researchers from South Korea and the United States who published this study August 11 in review Scientific Reports However, they do add a new element: All kinds of misinformation about vaccines seem to be involved, including the kind of “conspiratorial” information that one might think would be hard to describe as credible. Two groups (“professionals” and “students”) were asked if they had been exposed to information about the coronavirus such as “vaccines are dangerous”. More than half answered in the affirmative, and those are the ones most at risk of seeing their reluctance to increase vaccination, regardless of the type of falsehood involved.

In their presentation, the researchers remind us that vaccine hesitancy is a much older phenomenon than COVID, with multiple causes – social, cultural and political. “The hesitant is a heterogeneous group,” as they specify: for example, the level of education does not appear, In recent studies, as the dominant factor. in contrast, The fact of joining to conspiracy theories It seems to be one : Since these are often theories that presented, long before the pandemic, a view of the world where dark forces conspired in secrecy to achieve their goals, it is no wonder that new misinformation about vaccines that adheres to this view of the world, was more likely accepted by these people.

Among a group of about 500 professionals surveyed in 2021, the most common misinformation was that COVID vaccines contained a microchip to track people.

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Conversely, those who answered general knowledge questions about vaccines better than others appeared to be less likely to fall into disinformation traps.

The study has its limitations: In their responses about their level of exposure to COVID-related news, people may not think of relevant examples, or they may not want to give the impression that they have been exposed to information they know is questionable.

But the study tends to confirm the warning signs that have been heard since the beginning of the “information epidemic” (or epidemic of false news about a pandemic): when misinformation penetrates fertile ground, it can have a tangible and measurable impact on a population’s health. “False health information can kill people directly and indirectly.”