Written by Kristi Rolf
Today, one of the most popular topics on the internet is the vaccines for COVID-19 that are currently being distributed in the United States and many other countries. The historic nature of the pandemic, novel type of mRNA immunizations, and multiple manufacturers of the vaccines create plenty to talk about and ample room for misinformation. News outlets have a constant stream of new research regarding vaccines to report on, and social media users are quick to share their opinions. This constant digital chatter causes frequent misinformation to spread far and wide that often goes uncorrected.
These days it is easy to contribute to the problem, often unintentionally. The common tongue-in-cheek remarks about one vaccine being better than the others can be damaging by creating an unhelpful competitive narrative. On April 13th, the CDC and FDA paused the distribution of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine to investigate a rare blood-clotting issue associated with the shot. To some, this event gave credibility to jokes about recipients of different vaccines being on different “teams” which imply that one shot is objectively better than the others. Public health initiatives such as the current immunization campaign need to have the public’s trust to be successful. Casual words can have a subtle but powerful effect counteracting efforts to accurately educate the public about medical topics made by experts. Jokes have their proper place, and it is essential to be extra cautious when making light of something as critical as life-saving vaccinations.