Capitalizing on a distrust of process with social media savvy
In “How anti-vaxxers could disrupt the cure for the COVID-19 pandemic” (Macleans.ca, July 22, by Aaron Hutchins), University of Guelph philosophy professor and author, Maya Goldenberg, says, “While some anti-vaccination advocates bring up arguments that appear to have basis in science … their claims are really acting as a placeholder for cultural and social anxieties around the process; that is, the organizations and government structures that manufacture, approve and market vaccines.”
“Anti-vaccination activists are expert at spreading their messages on social media,” says Dr. MacDonald. “We need to get in there with correct information to counter the misinformation.” The best place to do that, in Dr. MacDonald’s opinion, is in the same place. “If public health only puts their information on the public health websites, that likely won’t work,” she says. “We need to be in the same places, to refute their statements with medical evidence.”
“I think the real job of public health experts and physicians is going to be really clear communication on the importance of vaccination,” stresses Dr. MacDonald. “We need to think about, and use, non-traditional media sources of communication.”
Dr. MacDonald agrees with the concerns of many experts regarding the potentially even stronger influence of anti-vax messages on people (and parents) in these times of COVID. “For parents who are already vaccine-hesitant, the anti-vaccine messages on social media may further entrench their worries and concerns.”
But don’t over-emphasize the use of non-traditional media, cautions Dr. MacDonald. “We have lots of parents – the majority in fact – who still look to, and prefer, traditional sources for information on vaccines, such as their family physicians and validated government/public health websites, etc.”
Where … and when? NOW
Just as important as where to reach the public with messages of the importance of both childhood vaccinations and COVID-19 vaccination is when. With health experts advising that it will likely be more than a year before approved vaccines are ready, they’re adamant that the time to start the conversations about the importance of getting a COVID-19 vaccine (and getting on track with childhood vaccination schedules) is now. As for the best approach to take with this crucial messaging, previous methods of relying on debunking anti-vax myths or citing scientific facts might not be most effective.
In “How anti-vaxxers could disrupt the cure for the COVID-19 pandemic,” source Eve Dubé, a medical anthropologist at Université Laval in Quebec and former member of a World Health Organization working group on vaccine hesitancy says, “We keep informing people with scientific facts, trying to address misconceptions through statistics and data, but people are much more moved by narrative and stories. I think public health needs to have good stories.”
In the same article, Steven Taylor, author of The Psychology of Pandemics: Preparing for the Next Global Outbreak of Infectious Disease, advises leaders to be “honest and transparent, but on the other hand, you don’t want to offer false hope or announce things prematurely.”
Obviously there are varying thoughts and theories on the most effective methods for reaching people and parents with the “VACCINATE!” message. But the desired end-result is the same.
“I think, basically, we want parents to know that childhood vaccinations are as important now, as they were before,” says Dr. MacDonald. “And they’re as safe as they were before.”
Canadians will get their say on who they think should get any COVID-19 vaccine first, thanks to a research team led by a University of Alberta nursing professor. (Edmonton Journal, November 3, 2020)
Who should get COVID-19 vaccine first is complicated: U of A nursing prof leads research team
Banner photo credit: Angelo Esslinger, Pixabay.com