This session organized by the European Research Council aimed to question the way we think about vaccines – not only as solutions to specific diseases, but as potential tools against antibiotic resistance, COVID-19, and disease more generally.
Dr. Jason Reifler, Professor of Political Science at the University of Exeter, opened the session by addressing the issue of distrust of vaccines, and of how misinformation about vaccines is spread. While the public widely recognizes the value of vaccines, he said, many people (around 40%) also have strong concerns about the side effects of vaccines that have allowed for misinformation and distrust to proliferate.
Reifler’s research has shown that providing people with information countering misperceptions about the risks of vaccines is more effective than trying to ‘scare’ people into getting vaccines by warning them about the dangers of a disease—except for those already the least likely to get vaccinated, among whom it had the opposite effect.
When it comes to COVID-19, the large majority of people would be likely to get a COVID-19 vaccine at some point according to Reifler’s research, regardless of their views on pharmaceutical companies.