A woman protests "No vaccine, no 5G, no face mask" in Spain Photo: AFP/File
health

Vaccine reluctance linked to belief in virus hoaxes: study

36 Comments
By Kelly MacNamara

Up to a third of people in certain countries may believe coronavirus misinformation and in turn be less open to immunization, scientists say, warning that development of a vaccine "might not be enough".

Researchers in Britain and the Netherlands conducted surveys in the UK, United States, Ireland, Mexico and Spain and found that while most people rejected COVID-19 conspiracy theories, some of these false stories had taken root in "substantial sections" of the population.

The World Health Organization has warned that the pandemic has been accompanied by a damaging "infodemic" that has made it hard for people to cut through the misinformation.

The study found the conspiracy most believed by participants was the claim that the virus was deliberately engineered in a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the epidemic first emerged.

Between 22-23 percent of respondents in the UK and U.S. rated this assertion as "reliable", rising to 33 percent and 37 percent Mexico and Spain respectively.

The hoax that COVID-19 symptoms are worsened by 5G phone networks was deemed reliable by 16 percent of respondents in Mexico and in Spain, 12 percent in Ireland, and 8 percent in both the UK and U.S.

The study, published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, found "a clear link" between believing coronavirus conspiracies and hesitancy around any future vaccine, said co-author Sander van der Linden, director of the Cambridge University Social Decision-Making Lab.

"As well as flagging false claims, governments and technology companies should explore ways to increase digital media literacy in the population," he said. "Otherwise, developing a working vaccine might not be enough."

Researchers conducted two surveys in the UK in April and May with 1,050 and 1,150 participants respectively, while there were also 700 participants each in the U.S., Mexico, Spain and Ireland.

They were also asked to rate the reliability of coronavirus claims on a scale of one to seven.

On average, the study found that an increase by one-seventh in someone's perception that misinformation was reliable was associated with a drop of 23 percent in the likelihood they would agree to get vaccinated.

By contrast, a one-seventh increase in trust in scientists was associated with a 73 percent increase in the likelihood of getting vaccinated.

Jon Roozenbeek, the lead author and a postdoctoral fellow at Cambridge's Department of Psychology, said people were dealing with "a deluge of statistics" in the pandemic.

"The fostering of numerical skills for sifting through online information could well be vital for curbing the 'infodemic' and promoting good public health behavior," he said.

Researchers found that high levels of trust in scientists and numeracy levels were "significantly and consistently" associated with imperviousness to misinformation across all countries studied.

Trusting politicians' ability to tackle the crisis predicted a higher likelihood of believing conspiracies in Mexico, Spain and the U.S., but not in the UK and Ireland, the study found.

A study from Cornell University earlier in October found that U.S. President Donald Trump was the world's biggest driver of COVID-19 misinformation, because of his promotion of what the researchers termed "miracle cures".

This month also saw Facebook announce a ban on accounts linked to QAnon, a conspiracy movement centered on the unsubstantiated belief that the world is run by a cabal of Satan-worshippers.

Its followers have alleged, without proof, that the coronavirus is a conspiracy to control people using vaccines and 5G.

© 2020 AFP

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

36 Comments
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Unfortunately for many people believing in conspiracies becomes an important part of their self value, you can demonstrate that something they believed is false but they will never accept it because it would make them feel "less". At some point they may understand their beliefs are wrong intellectually, but they will never openly recognize it and worse even they will try to convince other people about what they themselves know is not true, maybe because they think that if enough people believe a lie it will stop being one.

Once at that point there will be endless amounts of excuses to persist, everybody not supporting them is considered part of the conspiracy and working for whatever hidden global entity they believe is responsible for every single bad thing that happens. If any kind of public figure support those believes, it automatically becomes as a superhero that could never do anything wrong, could never lie and that has to be defended from the evil science.

Trying to convince people so invested in believing is not a realistic goal, some actually end up sacrificing their own family when they die from preventable diseases that are supposedly a hoax, but there is value in demonstrating their beliefs as wrong, and that is for the people that are not yet convinced, worrying about what they hear but without investing their own value on believing. Reading how easy is to demonstrate those beliefs as false can help those people to realize there is no sense in becoming like that, and they may doubt and take things with care, which is perfectly fine, instead of automatically believe that the world is there to poison them without exception.

7 ( +12 / -5 )

Virusrex, not only that, but sometimes they even become violent when exposed or confronted by scientific evidence. I happen to know a person (medical doctor) who received an award for promoting science literacy in Japan, and she also writes about scientific evidence against antivaxxers, homeopathy, wonder cures and supplements, etc. Especially after receiving the award, she started receiving threatening emails and letters targeting herself and her family (including her children!). Which reinforces your conclusion that it is quite impossible to rationally argue with such people

8 ( +12 / -4 )

My body, my choice.

-9 ( +5 / -14 )

My body, my choice.

As long as you keep your choice away from those of us who choose to not contract the virus, natch.

12 ( +16 / -4 )

Unfortunately for many people believing in conspiracies becomes an important part of their self value, you can demonstrate that something they believed is false but they will never accept it because it would make them feel "less".

One of the problems you can come across with conspiracy theorists is the pathology which allows them to dismiss any evidence or data they don’t like as part of a conspiracy/bought and paid for. You hit a wall here and the conversation is over.

I agree with the often made observation that a large part of the conspiracy theorist mind is a sense on inadequacy - they are desperately trying to look more intelligent and perceptive than they are. Try mocking their beliefs and you’ll see the lack of humour and defensiveness.

12 ( +15 / -3 )

My body, my choice.

ok genious..

4 ( +8 / -4 )

If tackling this "misinformation" is such an important issue, all they have to do is have an open debate between the "anti-vaxxers" and the pro-vaxxers; problem solved. As long as pro-vaxxers continue to run away from discussing the known vaccine risks and the "anti-vaxxers" continue to be censored, people will hesitate to get a vaccine.

-5 ( +5 / -10 )

My body, my choice.

Actually, making yourself a vector for disease and a danger to those around you affects more people than just you.

Get vaccinated.

If tackling this "misinformation" is such an important issue, all they have to do is have an open debate between the "anti-vaxxers" and the pro-vaxxers; problem solved. As long as pro-vaxxers continue to run away from discussing the known vaccine risks and the "anti-vaxxers" continue to be censored, people will hesitate to get a vaccine.

The science is settled. Vaccines work. Germ theory is real. Anti-vaxxers are easily led buffoons who are likely to believe the Earth is flat. There is no debate to be had.

8 ( +12 / -4 )

If tackling this "misinformation" is such an important issue, all they have to do is have an open debate between the "anti-vaxxers" and the pro-vaxxers; problem solved.

Antivaxxers are proud to be illogical, irrational. There is no debate possible when one side cannot accept as a condition not to use proven lies or invalid jumps of logic.

There are actual debates about vaccines, with people that are worried about things in a rational and scientific way, and they further advance our knowledge and the safety and efficacy of the vaccines continuously. The huge difference is that the people that criticize are not basing their position in easily disproven assumptions born from ignorance and baseless conspiracy theories.

People that lie should be censored, be it for or against vaccines. The problem is that defending the huge benefits that vaccination have done for humanity does not require any lying, just to show the data that proves it. On the other hand antivaxxers don't have valid arguments, so they need to manipulate and twist the information available until it becomes false in order to mislead people. That is what is censored.

You want antivaxxer videos to stop getting deleted? convince the people making them to stop lying, that would solve the problem (and make the videos a huge lot shorter).

6 ( +10 / -4 )

The science is settled. Vaccines work. Germ theory is real. Anti-vaxxers are easily led buffoons who are likely to believe the Earth is flat. There is no debate to be had.

This is a gross oversimplification. Sure, germ theory is real and most vaccines work, but there are some that have adverse effects on vaccinated people, with some adverse effects far more serious than others. The fact that most vaccines don't harm most people should not detract from the fact that some do. There are court cases and big payouts to victims demonstrating this. That's why they need rigorous testing to maximise their safety and efficacy.

A serious problem we have is that hard-line pro-vaxxers try to muddy the waters by insulting people as "anti-vaxxers" who question the safety or effectiveness, or even the necessity, of vaccines who would accept them if the concerns were properly addressed. That's not to say there aren't people who would not take a vaccine no matter what. I'm not one of those.

It's worth remembering that lazy slogans like "the science is settled" is just as ignorant as claiming that the earth is flat. There's always more to learn and explore, and vaccines are certainly no exception due to the extreme complexity of the human body. There's no catch-all solution.

My main concern is the political dimension. If a safe vaccine is found, why not just vaccinate those who are most vulnerable and those who volunteer? We don't mass-vaccinate everyone every flu season, and given that the numbers show the vast majority of the population is not vulnerable to this virus, why the push for mass de facto compulsory vaccination? We don't need to lock down populations and gut economies and restrict travel and freedom to speak and associate for this.e pro-vaxxers try to muddy the waters by insulting people as "anti-vaxxers" who question the safety or effectiveness, or even the necessity, of vaccines who would accept them if the concerns were properly addressed. That's not to say there aren't people who would not take a vaccine no matter what. I'm not one of those.

It's worth remembering that lazy slogans like "the science is settled" is just as ignorant as claiming that the earth is flat. There's always more to learn and explore, and vaccines are certainly no exception due to the extreme complexity of the human body. There's no catch-all solution.

My main concern is the political dimension. If a safe vaccine is found, why not just vaccinate those who are most vulnerable and those who volunteer? We don't mass-vaccinate everyone every flu season, and given that the numbers show the vast majority of the population is not vulnerable to this virus, why the push for mass de facto compulsory vaccination? We don't need to lock down populations and gut economies and restrict travel and freedom to speak and associate for this.

-5 ( +6 / -11 )

Pro vaxxer

Ridiculous expression. About as much use as ‘pro bather’, ‘pro backside wiper’ or ‘pro underwear changer’.

It might be doing the rounds on the conspiracy theory circuit, but it doesn’t carry any currency outside.

6 ( +10 / -4 )

JimizoToday  12:29 pm JST

Pro vaxxer

Ridiculous expression. About as much use as ‘pro bather’, ‘pro backside wiper’ or ‘pro underwear changer’.

It might be doing the rounds on the conspiracy theory circuit, but it doesn’t carry any currency outside.

Context comprehension doesn't seem to be one of your strengths. Do you support mandatory covid-19 vaccination?

-8 ( +3 / -11 )

Context comprehension doesn't seem to be one of your strengths. Do you support mandatory covid-19 vaccination?

Relevance and staying on point don’t seem to be among your strengths.

As for your question - no.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

JimizoToday  01:02 pm JST

Context comprehension doesn't seem to be one of your strengths. Do you support mandatory covid-19 vaccination?

Relevance and staying on point don’t seem to be among your strengths. 

As for your question - no.

When dots need to be connected, sometimes a diversion is warranted.

And, cool, I was just curious.

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

Pro vaxxer

Ridiculous expression...

I guess you're right, it is a ridiculous expression. Can you recommend a better expression for: person who believes vaccines have never caused any harm and never will, and should be pushed on everyone?

Conversely, anti-vaxxer is also a ridiculous expression, a more appropriate one would be pro-safe-vaxxer. All we want are safe vaccines, with an open and honest discussion on their safety and efficacy.

-7 ( +3 / -10 )

A serious problem we have is that hard-line pro-vaxxers try to muddy the waters by insulting people as "anti-vaxxers" who question the safety or effectiveness, or even the necessity, of vaccines who would accept them if the concerns were properly addressed. 

No, that is not a problem much less a serious one, antivaxxer is the irrational, illogical zealot believer that vaccines offer nothing of value and are made for some sinister purpose (different according to what is their paranoid obsession). People that bring logical arguments, worries or scientific evidence are not part of this group. Every perceived problem with vaccines that have been solved came to light because of valid concerns that were properly expressed. Sometimes by proving the concern was not founded (which requires research) as in the case of the HPV vaccines, sometimes by proving the vaccine was not having the safety level required for their use, as in the case of Dengvaxia on the Philippines, none of the people that reported their valid concerns were qualified as antivaxxers since none of their arguments depended on false information or impossible to prove world conspiracies. Sometimes these people come from inside the companies that produce the vaccines, sometimes they are doctors or nurses that notice something, sometimes they are just statisticians with a lot of time and an interest on certain data.

My main concern is the political dimension. If a safe vaccine is found, why not just vaccinate those who are most vulnerable and those who volunteer? We don't mass-vaccinate everyone every flu season, and given that the numbers show the vast majority of the population is not vulnerable to this virus, why the push for mass de facto compulsory vaccination? 

This is a theoretical argument not based on reality (unless you live in North Korea and maybe China).

In Japan, America or Europe there is no realistic possibility of having forced mass vaccination. I mean, people can literally choose to die before using blood or antibiotics, there is no reason vaccines would be different. You can believe anything you want, but a personal belief is not an objective argument.

A vaccine can be required to do certain things, but that is true right now and is a completely different situation from a forced mass vaccination. You don't want a vaccine even if its proved safe and effective next year? there is no way it can be forced to you. You may not be able to do certain things (let's say board an airplane without a mask or visit your grandmother at her care facility without proving you are immune by other means) but that is true also now, People cannot visit certain countries without getting a Yellow Fever vaccine, or do certain jobs without a Rabies vaccine for example.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

The value of education cannot be overstated. Also, courses in logic would be useful. In the colleges which I attended, logic was not offered as such, but there was a course in Plato's Socratic dialogues which was fascinating. Some colleges offer a course in number theory, which I found useful. What I am trying to get at is that critical thinking should be encouraged. Even if one can not explain to a rabid personality why their beliefs are highly questionable, one can at least minimize the danger of infection.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Can you recommend a better expression for: person who believes vaccines have never caused any harm and never will, and should be pushed on everyone?

Pointless question.

I’ve never come across a poster here claiming vaccines have never, or will never, cause any harm. My own take is they have risks but the good far, far outweighs the risks. I disagree with pushing vaccines on people, but the question of conspiracy theorists putting their own babies at risk due to their pathology is a more difficult question.

Can you just clarify your stance here? You posted in the past that you doubted vaccines had an effective role in eliminating polio and mentioned autism. Can you also clarify your position on vaccines and autism? Also, are there any other conspiracy theories you subscribe to?

7 ( +9 / -2 )

@1glenn,

I agree, it is much more difficult for the authorities to manipulate an educated population that can think critically.

I’ve never come across a poster here claiming vaccines have never, or will never, cause any harm.

Oh, I see you've not read virusrex's word salads. She even thinks vaccines are perfectly fine before completion of clinical trials.

-9 ( +2 / -11 )

Can you recommend a better expression for: person who believes vaccines have never caused any harm and never will, and should be pushed on everyone?

"Strawman" is quite adequate, something imaginary used as a punchbag because a real opponent would be to difficult to deal with.

It would be as bad as using "I would rather strengthen my immunity by licking money than getting a vaccine" except that this is an actual quote.

Oh, I see you've not read virusrex's word salads. She even thinks vaccines are perfectly fine before completion of clinical trials.

Again "misremembering" things?

I have never written so, that is only your strawman argument since apparently you have given up trying to disprove what I really write.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

It would be as bad as using "I would rather strengthen my immunity by licking money than getting a vaccine" except that this is an actual quote.

lol what

6 ( +8 / -2 )

It would be as bad as using "I would rather strengthen my immunity by licking money than getting a vaccine" except that this is an actual quote.

Oh, so you would rather get monkey cell or human fetal cell debris (with perhaps contaminating viruses) injected in your arm. So yeah, compared to that, I would rather lick money. But the best is to do neither.

-9 ( +2 / -11 )

Virusrex, I agree with the poster above that logical "word salad" doesn't work with these guys. Richard Dawkins summed it up the best: "Science: it works, bitches"

https://www.theverge.com/2013/4/2/4173576/richard-dawkins-on-science-it-works-bitches

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Burning BushToday 09:38 am JST

My body, my choice.

It seems so simple. Incredible that this gets downvoted.

I wonder if all those downvoters are also pro-life..

-7 ( +3 / -10 )

Oh, so you would rather get monkey cell or human fetal cell debris (with perhaps contaminating viruses) injected in your arm.

At billions of times less amount and variety? definetely.

But the best is to do neither.

If you eat or drink anything you constantly do it, in larger scale than any vaccine could possibly introduce, the vaccine at least protects from a disease in a safe and reliable way. Licking money just make you at much a connoisseur in the taste of pathogens, toxins, drugs and every single kind of bodily secretions of countless strangers and animals (and monkey and human fetal cells)

And how about quoting where did I say that "vaccines are perfectly fine before completion of clinical trials."?

Ready to accept that you lied about it? (again)

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Raw Beer had fallen so far down the antivax rabbit hole that he thinks that licking filthy coins is better for you than trusting doctors to use tested, safe vaccines.

This website recently posted an article that said that disinformation on Covid was bad. Indeed, this very article describes antivax sentiment as a hoax. It would be nice if JT would recognise that spreading these views in dangerous. Alas, the moderators are too busy protecting Trump supporters against facts that might offend them to protect their readers against nonsense that might kill them.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

@Blitzwing

They are most likely not down-voting the comment as a plain neutral statement but as what it involve moreover knowing the stance the one posting usually defend.

And you should really grow up out of the upvote and downvote, they just can be motivated and interpreted in so many way... moderator should push for these to be removed or switched for a more wide range of choice or better a tree of comments.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

At billions of times less amount and variety? definetely.

You keep on saying that. But you're wrong. I don't eat any monkey cell debris, or human fetal cell debris. And I eat even less uncooked versions of those. You can keep on saying that vaccines are 100% pure, but informed rational people don't believe it.

And how about quoting where did I say that "vaccines are perfectly fine before completion of clinical trials."?

I already wasted too much time finding your other statements that you denied making. Now, I don't remember your exact words, but you did say something very similar to that. After, someone else pointed out that they had not been tested yet, you retracted by saying they were candidates but that they were fine. It took you over a month of me accusing you of considering untested vaccines as perfectly fine before you denied it. If that is not what you said, what did you say? You did say something very similar to that.

the vaccine at least protects from a disease in a safe and reliable way.

Says you! Some also paralyze or kill.

-8 ( +2 / -10 )

You keep on saying that. But you're wrong. I don't eat any monkey cell debris, or human fetal cell debris.

Yes you do, you just think you don't. But that is just living in denial. Food, water air, is full of organic contaminants of every kind, living means consuming them in much larger quantities, constantly.

You can keep on saying that vaccines are 100% pure, but informed rational people don't believe it.

No, that is another lie you made up to avoid the real argument, My position is that vaccines are much more strictly purified than everything else you consume, so contaminants of every kind are in literally billions less amount.

I already wasted too much time finding your other statements that you denied making

Very roundabout way of accepting that you lied about what I wrote but I can accept it, good to see you finally came to recognize you changed the meaning invalidly. After all you searched and searched until you got tired without finding it.

A honest person would not use that again false strawman after corroborating is not true, on the other hand an intellectually, morally failed person would again repeat it even after knowing is a lie. I am totally sure what you will do.

Says you! Some also paralyze or kill

No, not me, I have never used my opinion as the basis for an argument. Says the science and every single professional association of health workers in the world. Like all of them.

And no, the risk of death or heavy side effects from vaccinating is incomparably low compared with not vaccinating. The same as wearing seat belts kills much less than not wearing them, or taking care of getting a proper nutrition kills less than not doing it.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

As soon as all the disinformation, misinformation, politics & interests are out of the way and clear facts are presented then I’ll consider being a vaxxer. Never had a flu shot. Why start now with the COVID-19. By the time a reliable vaccine comes out the virus will have evolved enough to make it irrelevant. I thought vaccines don’t work for viruses.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

I thought vaccines don’t work for viruses.

You might want to ask where you got that idea from.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

By the time a reliable vaccine comes out the virus will have evolved enough to make it irrelevant.

No, that’s not likely.

I thought vaccines don’t work for viruses.

Think this through. There are billions and billions of dollars being spent on thousands and thousands of people to do research to develop a vaccine. If they didn’t work on viruses, why would people do that? And using that simple logic, how did you ever feel comfortable posting the above comment in public? It doesn’t even need a fact check to see it’s wrong. Just a moment of common sense.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

In general, I have no problem with vaccines. My take is that the danger from any given vaccine currently being used is almost infinitely less than the danger from the disease(s) it is meant to protect from. It is like the difference between one in a million (a problem with a vaccine), and one in three (the likelihood of getting a disease from a contagion.)

My problem with a potential Covid-19 vaccine is trying to tell the difference between a vaccine approved by a politician (aka Trump), and one approved by multiple scientists and scientific bodies, after rigorous testing and peer review. Like Sen. Harris said, if it is approved by Trump, I don't want it, but if it is approved by Dr. Fauci, I'll volunteer to be first in line.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

My take is that the danger from any given vaccine currently being used is almost infinitely less than the danger from the disease(s) it is meant to protect from.

And as I understand it (I'm definitely not an expert), that's exactly what phase 3 trials for vaccines are for - to ensure that the danger from the vaccination isn't greater than the danger from the virus.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Antivaxxer losers everywhere !!..

3 ( +5 / -2 )

It's just a general lack of intelligence that stems from not listening or applying yourself in school, not really reading books or quality literature and just a general celebration of dumbness that has crept into society for the last ten years or so. Dr Facebook and Dr Twitter know better than Medical staff that have devoted their lives to the field of medicine.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

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