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America's 'Radical Elders' continue their work for fairness, justice; SCOTUS upholds law disarming domestic abusers; Workplace adoption benefits help families, communities; Report examines barriers to successful post-prison re-entry in NC.

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A congresswoman celebrates Biden protections for mixed status families, Louisiana's Ten Commandments law faces an inevitable legal challenge, and a senator moves to repeal the strict 19th century anti-obscenity and anti-abortion Comstock Act.

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A Minnesota town claims the oldest rural Pride Festival while rural educators say they need support to teach kids social issues, rural businesses can suffer when dollar stores come to town and prairie states like South Dakota are getting help to protect grasslands.

Experts: Misinformation movement harming vaccination rates

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Thursday, January 11, 2024   

Public health experts say the rapid spread of health misinformation online is contributing to a dangerous decline in vaccination rates in Wisconsin and elsewhere.

Surveys show the percentage of Americans who believe vaccines are unsafe has nearly doubled since 2021 as social-media users falsely claim approved vaccines cause autism, cancer or infertility.

Monica Wang, associate professor of community health at Boston University, said falsehoods spread faster than the truth, with damaging results.

"This health misinformation spread can erode trust in health care systems," Wang pointed out. "It can lead to people delaying when they go to a doctor to seek help."

Wang argued social media algorithms are keeping users in so-called "information silos," unexposed to credible health sources or even contradictory views. She pointed out without robust regulation of misinformation content, individuals are left to discern what is true. The Wisconsin Policy Forum said vaccination rates for schoolchildren slightly rebounded last year but remain well below pre-pandemic levels.

Studies show misinformation regarding the COVID-19 vaccine has cost the U.S. up to $300 million a day in health care and economic losses since 2021. It has also contributed to an estimated 300,000 preventable deaths of unvaccinated individuals.

With COVID-19 cases still circulating, Wang stressed scientists can also use social media to create health content and regain the public's trust.

"We as researchers can do a better job about communicating our science," Wang asserted. "That means we start communicating our results and our processes in language that's easy and accessible for everyday people to understand."

Wang emphasized social media users should look for health information from established medical institutions and avoid content making sensational medical claims. She added when in doubt, do not share information lacking scientific credentials.


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