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'Ridiculous': Vaccine myths cripple US uptake as delta surges

Josh Wingrove, Kristen V. Brown and Daniel Zuidijk, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

“When we see misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines, we take action against it,” the company’s vice president of integrity, Guy Rosen, wrote in the post.

He wrote that the company had removed 18 million “instances” of COVID-19 misinformation since the beginning of the pandemic and had labeled and reduced the visibility of 167 million posts that had been “debunked by our network of fact-checking partners.”

Partisan divide

Social media posts can reinforce preexisting doubts about the vaccines. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey of unvaccinated adults published June 30 found that 53% think the shots are too new and 53% are worried about side effects.

About 43% said they just don’t want it, 38% don’t trust the government, 38% don’t think they need a shot and 26% said they don’t trust vaccines in general.

Smaller percentages of people said they didn’t know where to get a shot or were concerned about missing work or having to pay for the vaccine. It’s free for anyone in the U.S.

 

Republicans, rural residents, younger people, and people of color are among the most wary of COVID vaccination, but demographics don’t easily explain hesitancy — or how to combat it. Two-thirds of Democrats live in homes in which everyone is vaccinated, the Kaiser survey found, while 39% of Republicans live in homes in which no one’s gotten a shot.

“Not everyone is going to be hesitant for the same reasons,” said Timothy Callaghan, who studies rural health at Texas A&M University. “The most important thing public health can do right now is first understand the beliefs people have. And then explain what is true and what is not. The last thing you want to do is disregard someone’s entire belief.”

For many hesitant people, the issue comes down to a fundamental lack of trust, Callaghan said. That means government public health messages are often less powerful than counsel from a trusted friend, relative or community leader.

Another Kaiser survey found that people initially skeptical of the vaccine got shots after seeing friends and family inoculated without side effects, after being pressured by friends or family, or after speaking with their doctors.

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