3 Simple Ways to Combat Vaccine Disinformation Online During National Immunization Awareness Month
Jul 27, 2020
If there’s one thing the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us, it’s this — viruses aren’t the only things that can spread quickly. Disinformation makes its way across the globe at a relentless pace, confusing some people who don’t know who to trust and misleading others who only want to protect their families.
To help remind people of all ages just how essential vaccinations are for the health of our families and our communities, every August, the U.S. celebrates National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM). With vaccination rates dipping throughout the U.S. and elsewhere, it’s never been more critical to combat inaccurate claims about vaccines online.
Here are three easy ways you can join the fight against vaccine disinformation this NIAM.
1. Be proactive about sharing science-based vaccination information.
The overwhelming majority of people choose to vaccinate their families, but you wouldn’t know that from scrolling Facebook or Instagram. Anti-vaccine activists dominate news feeds by posting massive amounts of comments and memes, drowning out pro-vaccination voices and giving the impression that where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
Don’t let them. The more positive vaccination content we can put out there, the better the chance that science-based information has a fighting chance of being seen online.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has already put together a NIAM toolkit with messages and graphics to help spread the word about vaccines. You can use the toolkit to post on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn throughout the month.
Tip: In addition to posting pro-vaccine messages on your social media accounts, you can amplify content posted by pro-vaccination groups like Vaccinate Your Family and others by “liking,” commenting, and sharing them. This will make them more likely to be seen in news feeds. Follow Vaccinate Your Family on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.
2. Push back on disinformation when you see it.
A recent analysis found that pushing back on incorrect claims online can make people think twice before believing them. This could be something as simple as posting “that’s not true” under a comment. While it might not change the original poster’s mind, it can let casual scrollers know they shouldn’t take the false claim at face value.
Many anti-vaccine claims have already been thoroughly debunked or explained by science-based organizations:
- Vaccinate Your Family: Questions About Vaccines has easy-to-understand answers to common questions and concerns about vaccination, vaccine ingredients and safety.
- Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia: Vaccine Education Center answers a wide range of vaccine-related questions, including a detailed look at vaccine ingredients, why they’re used, and what research really says about their safety.
- CDC: Common Questions About Vaccines provides short explanations about the recommended vaccination schedule and info on who needs vaccines and when.
- History of Vaccines offers insight into the vaccine development process, such as why we don’t always do randomized controlled trials with a saline placebo to test vaccine safety.
Tip: The more replies a comment has on social media, the more often it will pop up on news feeds. To avoid amplifying inaccurate vaccine-related messages, start a new thread or comment with the science-based info.
3. Share stories and personal experiences with vaccinations and vaccine-preventable diseases.
Disinformation tends to appeal to strong emotions like anger or fear — which is why those who oppose vaccines will often use personal stories in an attempt to downplay the fact that vaccinations are safe and effective. Stories can be powerful and draw in those who might not be convinced by science or statistics alone.
Everyone has a story. What’s yours? Who or what is your reason for staying up to date on recommended vaccinations? Sharing your own personal fears, beliefs and experiences could be what’s needed to draw others into the conversation.
Tip: In addition to your own story, you can also share those from other people impacted by vaccine-preventable diseases. We have dozens of personal stories on our Vaccinate Your Family website, as well as personal story videos on our website and YouTube channel. Other organizations like ShotByShot.org and Families Fighting Flu also have a lot of stories for you to share.
What are you doing to mark National Immunization Awareness Month? Let us know in the comments below!
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