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Engaging with the anti-vax movement

Lead Biomedical Scientist Jonathan M Evans argues that we need to get better at engaging with anti-vaxxers for our own future benefit.

Who doesn’t love hearing about a good conspiracy theory; from the grassy knoll to Q-anon or, my favourite, the flat earthers? In my experience, conspiracy theories always have a grain of truth and around these grains are the fantastical claims that commonly don’t stand up to critical analysis. I’ve experienced this first-hand on social media whilst discussing laboratory testing and acknowledging that false positives do occur with PCR testing. It led to a cascade of logic that defied belief and ultimately a ridiculous conclusion that included COVID being a hoax.

There are many subgroups

The COVID vaccine should be the crown jewel in our SARS-CoV-2 story; our D-Day – the defining moment that changed the course of the war against this coronaviridae. Instead, it could be the battleground upon which all our responses against emerging pathogen outbreaks are fought.

The new social media-driven world we live in isn’t going anywhere and whilst we may just be emerging from this coronavirus pandemic and probably think the chances of another pandemic in our lifetimes is now remote, it actually has done little to reduce the risk of major antigenic shift and an influenza pandemic. Vaccination is likely to be key in our armoury in managing that pandemic, or others that may appear, and if the anti-vax community continues to grow, we are only going to have further battles along the vaccination frontline.

To me it’s quite easy for anti-vaxxers to be lazily grouped together, however, within the community there are many subgroups – too many to list here.

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