Seeking out credible and reliable sources of information is important to be accurately informed about vaccines. It can be hard to know what is accurate and what is misinformation. Let’s break down the importance of doing your own research with advice from two vaccine advocates.
What is Vaccine Misinformation?
One of the most common forms of vaccine misinformation is the belief that vaccines are linked to autism. This theory originated from a 1998 study that has since been debunked, but continues to circulate in anti-vaccine circles. Other common misconceptions include the belief that vaccines contain harmful chemicals or that they can weaken the immune system. While some vaccines do contain small amounts of additives or preservatives, these are generally considered safe and are used in very small amounts.
How do we combat vaccine misinformation?
To combat vaccine misinformation, it is important to provide accurate information about the safety and efficacy of vaccines. “We want to make sure that we can address [parents’] concerns but also provide them with the information they need to be able to help their kids get the health care they need and to get vaccinations that are very important for their health,” says Dr. Laura Offutt, director and founder of International Adolescent Health Week. This can be done through public health campaigns, educational materials, and outreach to communities that are most affected by vaccine hesitancy. Healthcare professionals also play an important role in promoting accurate information about vaccines and encouraging their patients to get vaccinated. “Because of my healthcare providers I was able to speak with and the information provided to me, I was able to make a clear, concise and scientific decision,” says Ethan Lindenberger, a 22 year-old adolescent vaccine advocate.
It is also important to encourage individuals to do their own research about vaccines. “Doing my own research was pretty easy, just using the Internet as a tool,” Ethan says. This means looking beyond social media and seeking out credible sources of information. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are both reliable sources of information about vaccines, as are academic medical journals and other reputable sources like Unity Consortium.
All in all, vaccine misinformation continues to be a major barrier to vaccine uptake. Misinformation spreads quickly, it creates doubts and increases vaccine hesitancy. Hesitancy can lead to a delay or refusal to get vaccinated, which can increase the risk of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. Dr. Offutt asserts that “when adolescents don’t get the vaccines that they need, they expose themselves to a potential illness that can develop immediately or in the near future. Not only are they increasing their own risk of illness they’re actually jeopardizing the health of those around them in their community.” Addressing this misinformation and encouraging individuals to do their own research about vaccines is crucial in promoting public health and ensuring that everyone has access to the protection they need. We encourage you to take a step toward protecting your health and do your vaccine research!
Want to learn more? Watch this short video where two vaccine advocates discuss vaccine misinformation. They discuss how despite their many benefits, vaccines continue to be the target of misinformation that undermine their efficacy and safety. In order to ensure that people make informed decisions about vaccination, it is important to address vaccine misinformation.
Ethan Lindenberger is a 22 year old vaccine activist from Norwalk, Ohio. When he was 18, he chose to get vaccinated despite his mother’s wishes and now speaks up against anti-vaccine misinformation campaigns.
Laura Offutt, ND, FACP is director and founder of International Adolescent Health Week, the Medical Director of the Teen Advisory Council at Penn Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine, Chair Of The Board Of Directors of The National Alliance to Advance Adolescent Health, and a proud Unity Consortium member. She is a strong advocate for adolescent health and recognizes that improving health requires system-level change.