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Why Anti-Vaxx Myths Persist

Image: Daniel Schwen, CC BY-SA 4.0

“A study examining vaccine related attitudes reveals that our beliefs are so resilient that we effectively immunize ourselves to the opinions of others.”

Immune to influence

campus.kn – To vaccinate, or not to vaccinate?

That is the question high on the list of polarizing issues of our time.

It’s one of those fraught topics that we can’t seem to stop arguing about. Online forums receive a lot of blame for risking public health by highlighting what they call the dangers of vaccination, and discrediting the benefits.

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Don’t they show a pathological tendency for provocative information to be amplified? Don’t they constantly drive us deeper into opposing corners? At least, that’s how the rhetoric goes.

Now, a study published in the journal Vaccine provides the first rigorous look at how our attitudes towards vaccines are shaped by online forces – and may show us a glimpse at the psychological mechanisms of prejudice in general.

The study by University of Konstanz psychologists finds that – contrary to expectations – existing vaccination beliefs are very resilient to radicalization, even to the point of being immune to any influence at all.

“Our results show that vaccination attitudes actually don’t follow the oft-told story that online ‘echo chambers’ automatically increase polarization,” says Dr. Helge Giese, a psychologist who studies the social dynamics of information transfer at the University of Konstanz and is lead author on the study.

The debate on vaccination

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Vaccine hesitancy – a term used to describe a reluctance to immunize oneself or one’s children to preventable communicable diseases – has been thrust into the global spotlight.

The recent return of measles in Great Britain and the United States, where the disease was once declared eliminated, has spurred drastic political action in other countries, like Germany, where the parliament voted in November to make measles vaccination compulsory for children in childcare or entering school.

All this has turned the public eye towards the small but vocal community of people – often known as anti-vaxxers – who oppose the use of vaccines. Measles Kills 5,000 Unvaxxed Kids In 2019 In One Country

Public health experts worry that the ubiquity of internet platforms, and the mechanisms governing online interactions, are fanning the flames of alarmist views … Read more. 

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