The American Academy of Pediatrics recently posted a news piece on the disturbing state of affairs for childhood vaccines due to the pandemic and urged parents to make sure their children’s routine vaccines were up to date, along with their vaccination against COVID-19. The resurgence of vaccinepreventable diseases is a real concern. The reason for the drop in vaccinations among children is likely multifactorial.
Among the various obstacle has been the rampant spread of misinformation on communication mediums, especially on social media. The medical community has been fighting a pandemic on one front and an infodemic on the opposite front. This infodemic can be described as “too much information, including false or misleading information in digital and physical environments during a disease outbreak.” When it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine, an intervention that literally turned the tide of the pandemic, it is important to emphasize that much of the infodemic of misinformation was targeted at creating vaccine hesitancy.
Vaccine misinformation is not a new phenomenon, but it certainly reached a fever pitch when the COVID-19 vaccine was developed. Parental concerns and fears about the COVID-19 vaccine were welcome opportunities that were seized by anti-vaccine groups to fan the flame of more hesitancy for general vaccinations, as well as the COVID-19 vaccine.
There have been some efforts to combat misinformation super-spreaders, but it may have been too little too late. The misinformation messages have already influenced and caused harm to the health of our communities. Nevertheless, these limited efforts to support the healthcare community to control the spread of the infodemic have resulted in curbing the influence of some major anti-vaccine groups, such as the recent removal of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Children’s Health Defense from Facebook and Instagram. The awareness and actions of the healthcare community are pushing things in a good direction, albeit incrementally small at times.
It is critical to incorporate the awareness and importance of vaccines with the knowledge that there is also a movement that opposes this most crucial public and personal health measure. The drop in vaccinations among children during the pandemic is likely multifactorial, but the spread of misinformation has likely played a bigger part than most would like to admit. Having August as a month to spotlight immunizations was nice, but we have to continue to educate and advocate for immunizations beyond the month of August, not only for the sake of children’s health, but also for the health of our entire community.