| Erfurt Laboratory for Empirical Research, Philosophische Fakultät, Forschung

Research team aims to combat dangerous misinformation on vaccination

The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes vaccination refusal - the delay or refusal of vaccinations without medical indication - as a serious threat to the health of people worldwide. It attributes the phenomenon primarily to misinformation on the internet. Medical professionals are most likely to influence people's vaccination decisions because they are considered trustworthy. A new research project is now to use these findings to turn dangerous misinformation into a potential advantage. The University of Erfurt is also involved.

A total of 3.1 million euros in funding from the EU's Horizon 2020 framework programme for research and innovation is available for this until the March 2025. Professor Stephan Lewandowsky from the University of Bristol is coordinating the overall project. A sub-project is also being worked on at the University of Erfurt under the direction of Prof. Dr. Cornelia Betsch. Other partners are the University of Cambridge, the University of Turku (Finland), the Observatoire Régional de la Santé (France) and the University of Coimbra (Portugal).

The project "JITSUVAX" (Jiu-Jitsu with Misinformation in the Age of COVID: Using Disproof-Based Learning to Improve Vaccine Uptake and Knowledge among Health Professionals and the Public) is based on two premises:

  • The best way to acquire knowledge and combat misconceptions is to use misinformation itself, either in attenuated doses as a cognitive "vaccine" or through in-depth analysis of misinformation during "disconfirmation learning".
  • Health care professionals (HCPs) are the critical link between vaccination policy and vaccine uptake. Since the main objective of JITSUVAX is to minimise misinformation about vaccination, it therefore aims to train healthcare professionals - including argumentative training - to communicate more effectively with patients.

"JITSUVAX" comprises four scientific work packages and one management package: First, the attitudes of healthcare professionals towards vaccination will be measured in the participating countries. In the second step, the argumentation of vaccination opponents will be analysed in order to generate arguments for vaccination against false assumptions. In the process, "tools" will also be developed to help prevent misinformation in the public and to communicate sound knowledge about vaccination. Subsequently, a guide for medical professionals and public health institutions will be developed. The researchers involved hope that their contacts with the WHO and the children's relief organisation UNICEF will contribute to the rapid global dissemination and use of the knowledge gained.