COVID-19 vaccine campaigns: how far are the anti-vaccine movements going online? How can pro-vaxxers be part of their change?

Stand Up X In Trafalger Square (Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Victoria Aguiar, a second-year medical student at the Municipal University of Sao Caetano do Sul, Bela Vista campus in Sao Paulo, SP – Brazil. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

The anti-vaxxers, as the group denominates itself, are increasing not only for COVID-19 vaccine, but also for other shots. This minority is getting space into social media, with accounts accruing more than 38.7 million followers (1) and transforming the science reality into a misinformation and fake news that can readily achieve much more people than they can handle. The engagement of people is based on gathering ambiguous information and isolated consequences from vaccines that can scare others of getting the vaccine, especially for COVID-19. Allegedly, this disinformation embases different types of argumentation and can really impact the numbers of actively immunized people against COVID-19 (2). 

It seems that COVID-19 was not strong enough to conscientize people about the importance of shots (2) and how they are the only therapeutic way of controlling a disease when there are not proven therapeutic treatments available (3).

The only strategy in order to this undiscriminated spreading of misinformation that is hazardous to public health and universally harmful appears to be the removal of posts and the block of accounts from social media apps (2). It seems to be radical, but when the algorithm cannot help the immunization and the service of understanding the importance of vaccines, especially one for controlling a pandemic, the only way purports to be the algorithm banning from having this type of content available. On the other hand, it is the same way a loss of freedom of speech and if vaccines are democratically applied, people have the freedom of speaking about them, as well as taking them if they choose to. What is an outbursting possibility of educating society about vaccines would be posting the same amount of information that is equitable, safe, deep-rooted and efficacious – and the responsible ones for heading this movement are health-related people (4).

To sum up, if there are profiles against vaccines, they do not have long paths when other profiles are bigger and informative when it comes to controlling what is controlling our freedom of going and coming. The anti-vax movements going far is just a matter of absence from the pro-vaxxers. We, as vaccinated and informed people need to stand up and cheer on what saves – the vaccine. Our response is to drawback the same information correctly, so that we make anti-vaxxers think twice (5).

  1. Burki T. The online anti-vaccine movement in the age of COVID-19. Lancet Digit Health. 2020 Oct;2(10):e504-e505. doi: 10.1016/S2589-7500(20)30227-2. Epub 2020 Sep 22. PMID: 32984795; PMCID: PMC7508526.
  2. Wadman M. Antivaccine forces gaining online. Science. 2020 May 15;368(6492):699. doi: 10.1126/science.368.6492.699. PMID: 32409456.
  3. Song Y, Zhang M, Yin L, Wang K, Zhou Y, Zhou M, Lu Y. COVID-19 treatment: close to a cure? A rapid review of pharmacotherapies for the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2020 Aug;56(2):106080. doi: 10.1016/j.ijantimicag.2020.106080. Epub 2020 Jul 4. PMID: 32634603; PMCID: PMC7334905.
  4. Puri N, Coomes EA, Haghbayan H, Gunaratne K. Social media and vaccine hesitancy: new updates for the era of COVID-19 and globalized infectious diseases. Hum Vaccin Immunother. 2020 Nov 1;16(11):2586-2593. doi: 10.1080/21645515.2020.1780846. Epub 2020 Jul 21. PMID: 32693678; PMCID: PMC7733887.
  5. Wilson SL, Wiysonge C. Social media and vaccine hesitancy. BMJ Glob Health. 2020 Oct;5(10):e004206. doi: 10.1136/bmjgh-2020-004206. Epub 2020 Oct 23. PMID: 33097547; PMCID: PMC7590343.

About the author

Victoria Aguiar is a second-year medical student at the Municipal University of Sao Caetano do Sul, Bela Vista campus in Sao Paulo, SP – Brazil. She is part of the International Exchange Board helping as a Local Exchange Officer at IFMSA Brazil USCS Bela Vista. She is interested in spreading helpful information on health, as well as, accessible health literacy.

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