Vaccination wars: In the fight against COVID-19, pro-vax movement emerges to battle vaccine denialism

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A new advocacy campaign is designed to mobilize the majority to speak out to help fight [vaccine] misinformation, at a time when the end of the current pandemic will hinge in part on the public’s willingness to be vaccinated.

Public health officials haven’t always understood how much damage anti-vax groups could do, says Joe Smyser, CEO of Public Good Projects, the nonprofit leading the new campaign. “It was easy to dismiss it—if you were in public health—as a kind of fringe group that may be very active online, but the tangible, real-world impacts were limited,” he says.

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The new campaign aims to activate the majority of the public who do support vaccines, educating them on the latest strands of misinformation that are circulating online and giving them the facts to be able to make persuasive counterarguments. It also asks them to flag inaccurate posts on social media. (Smyser says that social media companies could also do more to combat misinformation about vaccines, but having volunteers flag problematic posts is a start.) Anyone who wants to participate will also get alerts when scientists and pro-vaccine experts are under attack online, so pro-vaxxers can “counter-swarm” with positive comments.

The nonprofit doesn’t expect to necessarily convert anti-vaxxers. But they want to stem the growth of the movement.

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