Researchers from Amsterdam UMC have successfully tested a new media intervention that reduces vaccine hesitancy. "Especially by debunking misinformation, people believe that a vaccine helps," said researcher Hamza Yousuf. He and his colleagues published their work in The Lancet E-Clinical Medicine.

The study, led by Professor Leonard Hofstra, and in close collaboration with the University of Cambridge and Mount Sinai Heart Hospital NYC, showed that debunking myths is very effective in increasing vaccine acceptance in elderly. The study ran during the flu vaccination campaign in the fall of 2020, in the run-up to the COVID-19 vaccinations. Hofstra: “The media intervention we developed is in principle universal. By using mass media you can reach the right group of people in a targeted manner, you can use questionnaires to easily find out what the target group thinks about a specific subject and then you can debunk misinformation. You can apply this in many other areas, such as in campaigns against tobacco or malnutrition. "

Confidence in vaccinations is increasing

Researcher Yousuf explains how the research group developed a media intervention that gives people more confidence in vaccinations: “In the first phase, through our collaboration with Omroep Max (TV channel targeted to elderly) viewers and De Telegraaf, we investigated the vaccination trust and knowledge in elderly in the Netherlands. We also looked at trust in the Dutch government. We then randomly tested two different versions of a video in the same group of elderly people. ” Half of the people only received a video with clear information, the other half received a video in which myths about vaccinations were also debunked. The researchers spoke to authorities in the videos, such as Professor of Neuropsychology Erik Scherder, virologist Eric van Gorp and general practitioner Ted van Essen. “The group that saw the video in which vaccine misinformation was debunked indicated twice as much that vaccinations cannot lead to autism, for example,” said Yousuf. "Debunking that myth increased the willingness to get vaccinated."

Follow-up research on corona vaccinations

The question is what these results mean for the current pandemic. “Based on these results, we were asked by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport to design a campaign against the misinformation regarding COVID-19 vaccinations,” says Hofstra. “We are still analyzing the campaign, but here too the results looks promising. We hope that our team will make a positive contribution to ending this terrible pandemic. ”

Top 10 health risk according to World Health Organization

In 2019, the World Health Organization named vaccination hesitancy as one of the top ten health risks to the world. Hofstra: “The main reason for this is the current increase in vaccination misinformation and myths, also called an 'infodemic'. Because of this misinformation, and therefore the refusal to vaccinate, measles has again broken out in a number of places in the world. ”

Read the full article on The Lancet website.