The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has now authorized two COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use in the United States. But despite the fact that these vaccines are “safe and uncommonly effective,” a lot of Americans say they don’t want one, said BIO’s Phyllis Arthur on the latest episode of the I AM BIO Podcast. What should we do?
We need 75-85% of Americans to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity against COVID-19, said Phyllis Arthur, BIO’s VP of Infectious Diseases Policy—but too many Americans remain hesitant.
This is due, in large part, to the spread of misinformation and disinformation about vaccines, peer-reviewed science, and institutions. “Never in the history of medicine has there been such a concerted effort to scare the bejeezus out of the American people,” she said.
This is different than, say, the 2016 election, when state actors used bots to “take advantage of what was already happening,” said Dr. Joe Smyser, CEO of the Public Good Projects, which tracks vaccine misinformation and disinformation in traditional and social media.
These are “organic messages” coming from “real people, real organizations—many of whom are based in the U.S.” and who really believe what they are saying, he explained.
What can we do about it? The Public Good Projects launched Stronger, a campaign to track vaccine misinformation and disinformation and, importantly, train people to take action against it. (Full disclosure: BIO is a financial supporter of the campaign.)
We also need to start “talking to people and listening, honestly listening,” and bring other stakeholders and messengers to the table to create messages that will resonate with the public, especially with the communities impacted the most (such as communities of color).
This needs to happen ASAP. “We've never vaccinated this many people before and we've never vaccinated this many people on a timeline that we're asking our ourselves to do,” concluded Dr. Smyser. “The scale of the mobilization that we need and every facet of what we've talked about today is larger than anything we've ever done before.”
What can you personally do? “If you spend a fair amount of time online, we need you to help fight back and patrol your platform in the name of science,” said Phyllis Arthur. “Our breakthrough science is only as good as the public’s trust in it.”
Listen at www.bio.org/podcast or wherever you get your podcast fix, including Apple, Google, or Spotify.
Want to spread vaccine facts? Visit www.COVIDVaccineFacts.org.
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