With the race heating up to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible, a team of 25 international scientific experts has joined forces to combat the so-called ‘infodemic’ of misinformation about the Covid-19 vaccines.

Together this week they have published an online guide with the University of Bristol, to allay constructive fears, challenge myths, and advocate the often-forgotten important role of vaccines in eradicating long-past serious deadly diseases.

Throughout the pandemic, social media has been a catalyst for the rampant dissemination of unhinged conspiratorial paranoia and unmasked libertarian narcissism. This has become increasingly concerning for governments worldwide as opinion polls show that people are gradually becoming less confident in taking any vaccine, and are becoming increasingly fatigued with continuing restrictions to their lives.

Although, more positively, recent ONS data suggests that gradually the UK public is becoming more confident in the Covid-19 vaccines offered. With 85% of adults reporting in December 2020 that they would very likely or fairly likely to take the vaccine when offered. And of those who replied that they are unlikely to take the vaccine (7%) the most commonly reported reasons were various concerns about safety.

A guide for improving vaccine communication and fighting misinformation

Building on previous endeavours to combat falsehoods, the easy-to-read guide debunks long-established myths about vaccines, addresses fears about the safety of the Covid-19 vaccine, and seeks to open a dialogue with those who believe that Covid-19 is a grand hoax or is a hyperbolic news story.

In the light of the more virulent Covid-19 strain which is reportedly up to 70% more contagious, with the UK Government committing to a target of 2 million vaccinations per week by the end of this month, while approximately 1.3 million doses administered so far.

Consequently, because of the development of that more virulent strain, the authors said scuppering growing vaccine scepticism is increasingly urgent. And are appealing to everyone, from doctors to politicians, teachers, journalists, and the public, to understand the scientific facts about vaccines, Covid-19, and infectious diseases.

Lead author Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, Chair in Cognitive Psychology at the University of Bristol, said: "Vaccines are our ticket to freedom and communication about them should be our passport to getting everyone on board. The way all of us refer to and discuss the Covid-19 vaccines can literally help win the battle against this devastating virus by tackling misinformation and improving uptake, which is crucial.”

“That's why we produced this handbook so everyone has the basics, as well as more comprehensive information, at their fingertips and can do their part in sharing facts, not fiction, to put us on the road to recovery rather than a path of further suffering."