HJAR Sep/Oct 2021

32 SEP / OCT 2021 I  HEALTHCARE JOURNAL OF ARKANSAS POLICY COLUMN POLICY SADLY, some Arkansans may be so en- trenched in their opposition to vaccination that they are unreachable. But for many, a lack of understanding of the safety and ef- fectiveness of the vaccines appears to be the main obstacle standing between them and getting protected. These people are reach- able, and Arkansas leaders at the state and local levels must do a better job of reach- ing them. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported in July on a survey commissioned by the Northwest Arkansas Council Health Care Transformation Division, in partnership with Benton and Sebastian counties, to learn the reasons behind vaccine hesitancy among residents of Benton, Washington and Se- bastian counties. Researchers conducted Social media platforms, despite some re- cent belated efforts to label or remove false claims about the pandemic, tend to amplify and reinforce misinformation. With algo- rithms designed to show people more and more of what appeals to them, social media platforms can create the illusion that a false claim is the consensus view. But misinformation does not have to be immersive to be effective: research has shown that even brief exposure to misin- formation can change behavior. In a study published in the journal, Nature Human Be- havior, in February, researchers recruited 8,001 people in the U.S. and the U.K. and exposed 6,001 of them to misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines. The remain- ing participants — the control group — were 750 phone interviews, an online poll with 2,000 responses and two focus group dis- cussions. When unvaccinated people were asked what concerns they had, some of the most common responses were the safety of the vaccines, cited by 62%; vaccine side effects, 54%; and the quick development of the vaccines, 51%. 1 Ample information is available to resolve these concerns, but unfortunately, Arkansans have also been exposed to a seemingly endless supply of misinformation. Misinformation has been a problem dur- ing past public health emergencies, but to- day’s environment of instant and ubiquitous electronic communication has allowed mis- information about COVID-19 and vaccines to proliferate on an unprecedented scale. Tackling Vaccine Misinformation IN ARKANSAS Vaccine hesitancy has been high in Arkansas, allowing the virus to spread like a raging forest fire through our state.