Rumors and myths abound about Covid-19 vaccines giving thousands of people excuses for why they aren’t showing up to get jabbed.
· They’ll make you magnetic.
· They’ll alter your DNA.
· You will be infertile.
· I’m young and healthy so I don’t need to get vaccinated.
· They were developed too quickly.
The list is long. Much longer than this one.
I even read one debunked myth on social media posted by someone I know that babies were killed to create the vaccine. My response in the comment section was a link to reputable websites that proved otherwise. But he remained adamant.
As doctors and politicians attempt to urge people to get vaccinated against Covid-19, their communications teams are cranking out press releases, posting announcements and information on social media, hosting press conferences, sending teams door-to-door to distribute brochures about the dangers of the virus and telling everyone to mask up, wash their hands and stand apart from each other.
But the old maxim, “Don’t tell me, show me,” is too often being ignored.
In June 2020, a voluntary multi-disciplinary team was set up “to review and collect online rumors and conspiracy theories” about the Covid-19 vaccine between Dec. 31, 2019 and Nov. 30, 2020. Any commercial affiliations of the team members “did not play a role” in the study titled “Covid-19 vaccine rumors and conspiracy theories: The need for cognitive inoculation against misinformation to improve vaccine adherence.”
Google, Google Fact Check, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, fact-checking agency websites, and television and newspaper websites were analyzed.
Granted, the information gathered was prior to the release of the vaccines, but rumors and myths were heating up already.
“The final report identified 637 rumors and conspiracy theories related to [the] Covid-19 vaccine in 24 languages from 52 countries. Of the total, 91 percent were classified as rumors and 9 percent as conspiracy theories. These items included news articles, social media narratives, online reports and/or blogs that approximately 103.3 million people had liked, shared, reacted to with an emoji, or retweeted on social media.”
In June 2021, a nurse appeared before an Ohio House hearing to prove a conspiracy theory being propagated on social media by a Cleveland-area physician and anti-vaccine activist that a metal key would stick to her arm and neck after being vaccinated.
The nurse pressed a key and bobby pin to her arm and neck. They did not stick.
Don’t tell me. Show me.
The other part of the equation is where and how the information is being distributed. In my many years as a communications executive, we often had the greatest success in grassroots campaigns.
Hairstylists were trained in early morning sessions at their shops to speak with their customers about breast cancer. Barbers in African American barbershops were given the tools to open conversations about prostate cancer and other non-communicable diseases.
Partnerships were formed with ministers and women’s church groups to arrange meetings for health professionals and other campaign spokespeople with their members.
It went beyond distributing brochures. Misinformation was addressed head-on and questions were answered forthrightly to debunk the rumors that were being passed around via word-of-mouth in the neighborhoods.
Like the children’s game of “telephone,” the information morphed into something more, something different each time it went from mouth to ear to mouth.
In the U.S., celebrities and pop stars are being enlisted to get the message out to younger people who are resisting being vaccinated. That’s all well and good and is one arrow in the communications quiver, but appearing at a White House press briefing is not enough.
Articles in mainstream media, posts on health departments and other government social media sites, press releases read on radio stations are not enough.
That’s not where people who are distrustful of the government and the media get their information.
It takes irrefutable proof delivered personally in neighborhood settings by people who are known and trusted. It takes conversations and solid proof.
It takes showing, not just telling.