Michigan health officials are working to administer as many COVID-19 vaccines as possible as quickly as possible as the number of reported cases of new variants of the virus increases. But rampant misinformation about the vaccine poses a significant challenge to what many, including Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, have called a “race” against these new variants.
State health officials hope to vaccinate 70% of Michiganders over the age 16. But among Michiganders over 18 who haven’t received a COVID-19 vaccine, 11% said they probably won’t get one and another 11% said they definitely won’t get the vaccine, according to a recent Census survey.
A peer-reviewed study of the impact of vaccine misinformation published in Nature in early February found that exposure to online misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines led fewer Americans to say they would “definitely” get the vaccine.
The two vaccines that have been authorized for emergency use — from Pfizer and Moderna — use a new technology that relies on mRNA, a molecule containing genetic material. The mRNA is read by the body’s cell to produce the “spike” protein found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. The vaccine does not contain the virus or the protein. Instead, it contains the instructions — through the mRNA — for the body to produce the protein, triggering an immune response in which the body learns how to identify the virus and develops antibodies to prevent against future infection.
And when most of the population is immune to the infectious disease, it provides indirect protection to those who have not yet been vaccinated. That’s because the spread of an infectious disease becomes less likely as more people become immune to it — a concept called herd immunity.
But misinformation presents an obstacle to achieving this goal.
This article originally appeared in the Detroit News, read more and stay up-to-date on debunked vaccine myths here.