Fake news fuels fear of vaccinations. ‘Disinformation is hard to correct’

Fake news fuels fear of vaccinations. ‘Disinformation is hard to correct’

For years, there has been a small group that fiercely opposes vaccinations, fearing negative health effects. Can they be better informed, and will vaccination rates rise in that case?

Image: Arie Kieviet / ANP

Opposition to vaccinations is not new. About ten years ago, a small group warned that vaccinations would lead to autism. And only five years ago, Arjan Lubach made an item about vaccinations because more and more young parents stopped having their children vaccinated against diseases like whooping cough.

Social media play a major role in injection fear. The so-called negative effects of vaccinations are all around us. Disinformation and fake news are spreading steadily. People do not recognize easily enough whether shared information is fake or real.

PhD researcher Mitchell Matthijssen is researching the willingness to be vaccinated in the Netherlands. According to him, it is difficult to correct misinformation that has already been spread. “It’s better to explain in advance what’s true and what’s not. If people are first told that the measles vaccine gives you autism, and then it’s explained that this is not the case, it’s very difficult to correct.”

Although vaccination coverage is reasonably high in the Netherlands, there are still groups that are not as easy to persuade. According to Matthijssen, these are mainly orthodox religious people and anthroposophists, who see illness as part of a person’s developmental process.

It is not without its consequences. “If the majority of people get vaccinated, you have a kind of herd protection. But the dangerous thing is that the unvaccinated are often clustered together. The chance of an outbreak is a lot higher then.”

Measles at Disney

In 2015, there was another measles outbreak that could ultimately be traced to the American Disneyland. More than 100 children became infected. Matthijssen: “We often look at what happens in the Netherlands. These diseases are not very common here, but they don’t stop at the border. If you go on holiday as an unvaccinated person to a country where the vaccination level is a lot lower, it can have consequences.”

Parents are more likely to vaccinate their children than themselves, according to Matthijssen. “With childhood vaccinations, of course, we’re a little more familiar.” That’s different with the coronavirus vaccine, which is still fairly news. A small group opposes it. Matthijssen does not think that the willingness to be vaccinated against COVID-19 will increase much. “You can see that the number of jabs that are given has decreased significantly.”

Still, that does not necessarily mean an infinite lockdown, according to the researcher. “Infectious diseases evolve in such a way that they become more and more contagious but less deadly. The only goal of such a variant is to stay alive.”

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