It is one thing calling for scientists to turbocharge the development of a coronavirus vaccine but quite another to get the population to have the vaccine. The anti-vaxxers are organising rapidly and have started circulating content with false information to achieve their aims. The movie plandemic is one example and is covered in a very good article in the New York Times today.
The primary reason I started this blog was to counteract anti-science movements and to provide people with MS and their families a rational interpretation of MS-related research. It is interesting to note that there is now good data science to show how anti-science movements, despite having very few initial supporters, get their message across and sow enough confusion to get undecided people to support their movement.
What I find fascinating, albeit scary, is how dynamic and multifaceted the anti-vaccination campaigns are, which explains their explosive growth in recent times (see figure and paper below). It also shows how gullible people are in general. The study below highlights why we scientists need to fight back using the same tactics. Simply sitting in our ivory towers using traditional media and unidirectional channels will not be good enough to fight the anti-vaccination and other anti-science movements.
I have a vested interest in this. One of our lines of research is to use an anti-EBV vaccine to prevent MS. If people don’t want vaccines how are we going to get this prevention strategy adopted by funders, ethics committees and more importantly the general population?
Can you help? Yes, please help fight fake news, by reporting it and calling it out for what it is. And don’t believe the fabricated conspiracy theories that are peddled to support these anti-science movements. The vast majority of conspiracy theories are wrong.
Johnson et al. The online competition between pro- and anti-vaccination views. Nature published: 13 May 2020
Distrust in scientific expertise is dangerous. Opposition to vaccination with a future vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the causal agent of COVID-19, for example, could amplify outbreaks, as happened for measles in 2019. Homemade remedies and falsehoods are being shared widely on the Internet, as well as dismissals of expert advice. There is a lack of understanding about how this distrust evolves at the system level. Here we provide a map of the contention surrounding vaccines that has emerged from the global pool of around three billion Facebook users. Its core reveals a multi-sided landscape of unprecedented intricacy that involves nearly 100 million individuals partitioned into highly dynamic, interconnected clusters across cities, countries, continents and languages. Although smaller in overall size, anti-vaccination clusters manage to become highly entangled with undecided clusters in the main online network, whereas pro-vaccination clusters are more peripheral. Our theoretical framework reproduces the recent explosive growth in anti-vaccination views, and predicts that these views will dominate in a decade. Insights provided by this framework can inform new policies and approaches to interrupt this shift to negative views. Our results challenge the conventional thinking about undecided individuals in issues of contention surrounding health, shed light on other issues of contention such as climate change, and highlight the key role of network cluster dynamics in multi-species ecologies.
CoI: we are planning to do an anti-EBV vaccine study to prevent MS