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Personal stories of vaccine side effects reduce the impact of hard science messages

21 May 2021

Expert scientific messages on vaccine safety are effective at increasing public acceptance of vaccines, but this benefit is mostly lost when news programmes show a personal narrative on side effects, research has found.

The study, published in PLOS One, involved a nationally representative sample of 2345 participants who were shown one of six edited news programmes about the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine produced during the 2019 measles outbreak in the US. They included clips of Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, relaying evidence on the value and safety of the MMR vaccine, and a mother refusing to vaccinate one child because another had a severe reaction.

Co-author Dolores Albarracín said: ‘Statistical information about vaccine trials should be communicated repeatedly and early, before vivid narratives of side effects take hold.’

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