The Dangers of False Information about Vaccines
By: Guneet Bal, Contributing Writer
Edited by: Elias Azizi, Editor in Chief
The misinformation being spread about vaccines is higher than ever due to COVID-19. Being against vaccines isn’t a bad thing. However, when those who are against vaccines start posting false data online or by word of mouth, it decreases the trust and confidence of others which ends up spreading like an epidemic. This gives others hesitance towards vaccines being offered despite them being readily available and effective. It can significantly increase the rate of disease growth.“Stemming the tide of misinformation, or inaccurate information, and disinformation, or deliberately misleading information, is critical to increasing vaccination rates across the country” (Conger, 2021).
Many people already know to take all opinions about vaccines that are found on social media with a grain of salt, however, they have a higher chance of believing websites and news outlets that aren’t funded by the government, as they aren’t considered ‘regular people like those who post on social media (Garett, 2021).
Politics, of course, are always involved with healthcare, and many have jumped on vaccines as soon as COVID-19 grew. People listen to their political leaders, as they should. However, there are widespread opinions about the vaccine being publicized, such as Ron Johnson, who was known to spread lies about vaccines. Many people defended him and developed their own false beliefs about the vaccines using him as the only source. This staggers the spread of reliable information. There is also the fact that barely anybody goes to a doctor’s office just to ask about vaccines. Studies show that 70-83% of Americans and Europeans use the internet to find information about health-related issues. (Garett, 2021).
This is because a large amount of Youtube’s vaccine-related content is more focused on how it “causes autism” and false ingredients, completely disregarding their effectiveness. There have been countless studies debunking this myth, however, a 2016 national study showed that over 16% of parents or guardians of autistic children believe vaccines are the cause of their children’s autism (University of Maryland). This is extremely concerning for people related to those parents and guardians, as they now think getting a vaccine would turn them or their children autistic, but also for those children whose parents think their natural-born disability is the fault of a vaccine. Another extremely common myth was that the government was implanting a chip inside their citizens, and COVID-19 was a way to get everyone to comply. This wasn’t true, however, medical sources on the internet are usually quite hard to understand, as they’re written using terms the average person isn’t used to (University of Maryland). This usually plants a bit of fear and distrust in the reader. Adding on to the previous topic, the influence of repetition is another danger of vaccine misinformation. Someone hears a lie about vaccines once (e.g. a microchip) and they brush it off or don't focus too much on it, but continuous reputation and “evidence” for this microchip fabrication makes one begin to hesitate. Adding on to the reasons for the dangers of researching on social media, is that the algorithm is set in a way that consistently shows you content similar to what you’ve been searching and spending the most time on. In this case, one would constantly see content about the dangers of the vaccine, or how the vaccine made someone’s baby autistic, and it would end up becoming the predominant content about vaccines that are showing up for them.
Surprisingly, there’s an issue with doing your research. Two issues to be exact. A common issue with researching is that it seems as though every and any source is valid, including blogs and personal opinions. The second issue is the phrasing of the headline. The phrasing of many sources is written in a biased way that makes one do a double-take, or immediately go into a state of panic without hearing more information. One example is the headline that was seen a few months ago, saying something along the lines of “too many vaccines were made!”. It was interesting because going into detail about that news segment, they had not made ‘too many vaccines’, they had made too many booster shots because many people weren’t willing to get a third shot. Medical sources remain neutral on vaccines or don't have an opinion and only use pure facts. This allows people to make decisions on their own and decide if they want the vaccine or not without having the influence of false information. This also allows anxieties about vaccines to be put to rest as well as allow people to tell others why they chose to not take the vaccine in ways that don't instill anxiety into others. As mentioned previously, a massive issue with the spread of misinformation that is not intended to be a lie is that they do not do their research. Many people are easily influenced by celebrities or their favorite influencers, who would say something along the lines of “the vaccine has a microchip inside it!” and their fans and followers would refuse to question where that information came from. It is always important to do research, especially on topics that are considered controversial.
Bond, S. (2021, May 14). Just 12 People Are Behind Most Vaccine Hoaxes On Social Media, Research Shows. Retrieved from NPR.org website: https://www.npr.org/2021/05/13/996570855/disinformation-dozen-test-facebooks-twitters-ability-to-curb-vaccine-hoaxes
Garett, R., & Young, S. D. (2021). Online misinformation and vaccine hesitancy. Translational Behavioral Medicine, 11(12). https://doi.org/10.1093/tbm/ibab128
Joi, P. (2022, May 5). Misinformation on social media is linked to vaccine hesitancy, says study. Retrieved from www.gavi.org website: https://www.gavi.org/vaccineswork/misinformation-social-media-linked-vaccine-hesitancy-says-study
email@example.com, img src=’/content/dam/sm-news/images/2015/10/conger-krista-90 jpg img 620 high png/1449288303768 png’ alt=’Krista C. B. K. C. K. C. is a science writer in the O. of C. E. her at. (2021, September 2). How misinformation, medical mistrust fuel vaccine hesitancy. Retrieved from News Center website: https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2021/09/infodemic-covid-19.html
University of Maryland Medical System. (2020, December 16). 10 Common Vaccine Myths Busted. Retrieved from www.umms.org website: https://www.umms.org/coronavirus/covid-vaccine/facts/myths-busted