Australians belonging to the vaccine refusal motion think about themselves a science advocacy group, in line with a study published today.

My colleagues and I discovered this group believes it lobbies for unbiased analysis in opposition to rising business interference. We additionally discovered vaccine refusers assemble their identities round growing well being literacy, participating with science and being knowledgeable when making choices about their well being.

Different analysis reveals individuals who refuse vaccines search to take control of their well being choices. And conversely, they think individuals who comply with public well being recommendation to vaccinate lose out by not educating themselves.

It could be tempting to dismiss these self-perceptions. However that may be to overlook the purpose.

The vaccine refusal motion is a loosely linked group that organises to withstand vaccination packages. Not all Australians who refuse vaccines are a part of the motion. There may be nice variety within the extent to which individuals refuse vaccines, and of their causes for doing so.

On common, Australians who refuse vaccines know more about vaccination than do those that absolutely vaccinate, maybe as a result of their scepticism prompts them to hunt out info. They entry both mainstream and alternative vaccine info. Individuals who refuse vaccines are sometimes extra prone to have higher health literacy.

Refusing vaccines is dangerous, and it may be linked to problematic well being beliefs and behaviours. However individuals who refuse vaccines additionally embody many traits we need amongst trendy sufferers, together with in search of to learn, engaged and empowered of their health decision-making.

A person holding a sign including the words no masks, no DNA vaccines
Australians who refuse vaccines are likely to have greater well being literacy than the common citizen.
Neil Corridor/EPA/AAP

Is extra well being info higher?

Well being literacy means having the data and abilities to find, understand and use health information.

The general public and coverage makers typically deal with well being literacy as an antidote to well being conspiracy actions just like the vaccine-refusal motion.

Professional-vaccine Australians generally think vaccine misinformation is just accepted by people who find themselves too silly or too well being illiterate to know higher.

The president of the Australian Medical Affiliation, in response to rising vaccine refusal, called in May for instructional sources to assist Australians “differentiate the nice from the unhealthy and the downright lethal”.

Learn extra:
Why people believe in conspiracy theories – and how to change their minds

Some researchers have called for bettering well being literacy to battle vaccine refusal, and lots of vaccine promotion methods rely on improving knowledge and understanding.

In any case, it makes a variety of sense. Elevated public well being literacy typically results in improved well being. Evidence suggests it may well appropriate some beliefs in well being misinformation. It’s simple to imagine that each one Australians could be pro-vaccine, if solely that they had enough well being literacy and significant pondering

Increased well being literacy is unlikely to counter refusers’ beliefs

So far as we all know, individuals who refuse vaccines use their well being literacy abilities to dive deeper into vaccine info, develop extra refined views and larger confidence in these views.

However well being literacy doesn’t seem to make pro-vaccine proof look extra convincing to refusers. In actual fact, when individuals who mistrust vaccination even have greater well being literacy, they’re even more likely to decide on info that matches their biases, and to assume that info helps their beliefs. Certainly excessive well being literacy appears to assist reinforce anti-vaccination beliefs amongst individuals who refuse vaccines.

Learn extra:
Young men are more likely to believe COVID-19 myths. So how do we actually reach them?

Vaccine refusers’ “pro-science, well being literate” id will not be benign. Of their eyes, it makes them extremely credible, which helps them resist public well being messages. It additionally makes them look extra credible to others, who could in flip be persuaded to query vaccines.

We have to perceive the constraints of well being literacy

Individuals who refuse vaccines sometimes hold different health beliefs in contrast with individuals who settle for vaccination, and lean in the direction of conspiracies (although typically they don’t).

However their views are constructed on mainstream tendencies. These embody tendencies in the direction of consumer-driven well being care, publicity to different well being paradigms, mistrust in “large pharma” and in authorities.

If individuals who refuse vaccines can go down well being misinformation “rabbit holes” regardless of having excessive well being literacy, it’s possible any of us is also misled by well being misinformation.

Learn extra:
Why QAnon is attracting so many followers in Australia — and how it can be countered

We undoubtedly want greater public well being literacy in Australia. It has clear and properly established benefits. However the vaccine-refusal motion reveals we could also be putting an excessive amount of religion in well being literacy as an answer for well being misinformation. It additionally reveals we have to perceive its potential to guide some folks to internalise dangerous well being beliefs.

This understanding is sorely wanted amid the COVID-19 “infodemic”, the place we’re confronted with an awesome quantity of well being info. It’s significantly essential given the general public wants to know and settle for credible info to comply with public well being directives to gradual the unfold of the virus.

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