Health Reports

Vaccination and misinformation

Social media allows us to get information quickly. Unfortunately, it sometimes contributes to the spread of false information. One of the main consequences of misinformation is resistance to vaccination. As a medical federation, we encourage our healthcare professionals to use public space to counter pseudo-science as soon as it appears.

Let's fight pseudoscience together!

Among the elements of misinformation is the claim that there is a real debate in the scientific community about vaccination. This leads doubtful parents to refrain from having their child vaccinated.

The reality is that there is a very broad international consensus among scientists on the need to vaccinate the population to eradicate a range of serious diseases.

Arguments in favor of vaccination

Vaccines have numerous benefits. Among other things, they allow you to protect yourself from a virus by strengthening your immune system and preventing the transmission of the disease to others.

Dr. Karl Weiss, a microbiologist-infectious disease specialist and professor in the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University, is categorical:

" Once we understood the importance of a vaccine, life expectancy in Quebec rose from 45 years at the beginning of the 20th century to more than 80 years today "

“In 1900, one child out of two in Quebec did not even reach the age of 18 and mortality during the first year of life was significant!”

Many cases of cancer have been prevented thanks to vaccines

A prime example is the mass implementation of vaccines against human papillomavirus (HPV) infections. In the groups in which it was introduced, the number of cases of cervical cancer has decreased significantly or dropped to almost zero. The vaccine also prevents HPV-related cancers of the rectum, anus and throat. These cancers affect both men and women.

They are serious diseases that can cause death and are preventable through vaccination.

Essential for certain surgical procedures

Complex surgeries, such as splenectomy (removal of the spleen due to certain diseases or trauma), require vaccinations. Otherwise, the risk of developing infections increases, since the organ can no longer play its role in the dynamics of the immune system.

Vaccination: victim of its success

Vaccines have made some infectious diseases so rare that the public is unaware of the devastation they’ve caused. For example, poliomyelitis, diphtheria, tetanus, rabies, different types of meningitis and measles. Today, This can lead to the mistaken belief that vaccines are useless.

Vaccines have led to the disappearance of diseases that used to be deadly, such as smallpox, which was eradicated thanks to a global vaccination campaign.

The role of doctors and nurses in conveying information

According to Ève Dubé, anthropologist at the Institut national de santé publique du Québec, 90% of parents agree to have their children vaccinated. However, nurses have to dedicate more time convincing parents of this. She believes that doctors and nurses remain the principal source of information for parents. They have a key role in building public trust in vaccines.

She suggests that healthcare professionals use motivational interviewing with parents, which is an approach that has been proven effective for people with cannabis or alcohol dependency. This approach consists of a helping relationship in the form of a conversation that reinforces a person's motivation and commitment to change. In the case of resistance to vaccination, it involves talking with parents in order to understand the reasons for their resistance and to dispel their fears.

Inspiring trust

Parents often have a "horror story" about vaccines, or anecdotes that may cause fear. Physicians should have some factual experiences in mind that are reassuring to parents.

Information: a continuous right and duty

Chief Scientists of Canada and Quebec, as well as various panels of experts, have reiterated the importance of scientific method and validation.

Recently, researchers at Laval University have made some interesting breakthroughs. For example, they designed the Pèse-savants algorithm, which compares an article on a given subject against the scientific consensus.

Several media contribute to countering misinformation with editorial methods of fact validation which allow citizens to distinguish what is true from what is false in matters of health.

For example, the Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec (FPJQ) offers a program to fight misinformation, #30 sec avant qu'y croire, to give senior high school students "reflexes to spot false news and better understand the impact it can have in society".

To learn more about vaccination