A team of scientists from around the world have joined forces to help fight the spread of misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccines.
Together, they have created an online guide, led by the University of Bristol, to arm people with the latest information and evidence, enabling them to talk reliably about the vaccines, constructively challenge associated myths and allay fears.
With the race on to vaccinate as many people as possible soonest in the wake of a more virulent virus strain, the Bristol COVID Emergency Research (UNCOVER) Group is appealing to everyone, from doctors to politicians, teachers to journalists and parents to older generations, to understand the facts, follow the guidance, and spread the word.
Lead author Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, chair in Cognitive Psychology at the University of Bristol, said: “Vaccines are our ticket to freedom and communication about them should be our passport to getting everyone on board. The way all of us refer to and discuss the COVID-19 vaccines can literally help win the battle against this devastating virus by tackling misinformation and improving uptake, which is crucial.
“That’s why we produced this handbook so everyone has the basics, as well as more comprehensive information, at their fingertips and can do their part in sharing facts, not fiction, to put us on the road to recovery rather than a path of further suffering.”
Social media has fuelled a so-called ‘infodemic’, resulting in conspiracy theories and being shared rampantly, which could discourage people from being vaccinated.
Bristol UNCOVER Group said the The COVID-19 Vaccine Communication Handbook sets out the facts, highlighting how the vaccines are safe and effective.
Co-author Adam Finn, Professor of Pediatrics and Director of the Bristol Children’s Vaccine Centre at Bristol Medical School, a virologist who has played a key role in the COVID-19 vaccine developments, said: “Accurate information about vaccines is becoming harder to distinguish from convincing but misleading fiction. This reduces uptake and so their impact on public health and harms us all.
“Although vaccines enjoy majority support that politicians can only dream of, we can no longer take this for granted. It’s time to take the initiative in ensuring people are not duped into making wrong decisions that harm them, their children and their communities.”