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Other’s opinion: We must counter the anti-vaccine rumors and lies

The Free Press (Mankato)

The prayed-for news of successful COVID-19 vaccines keeps on coming.

AstraZeneca said Monday that its coronavirus vaccine reduced the risk of infection by an average of 70% and was 90% effective if a two-dose system was used.

That follows on the heels of announcements from Moderna and Pfizer they have tested vaccines with 95% efficacy against COVID.

The first doses could be available in as few as three weeks.

All that good news is diminished by the strong anti-vaccination groups that spread fear and misinformation about the safety of immunization programs. Dr. Anthony Fauci says that for the United States to gain the herd immunity needed to finally end this epidemic will require at at least 70% of all Americans get the COVID-19 vaccine.

That won’t happen unless everyone pushes back on the misinformation and rumors spread on social media about the safety of immunizations. In May, 72% of Americans said they would get a vaccine when one is available, but that number fell to 51% by October.

That drop in trust in a vaccine came as fears grew that President Donald Trump and his allies would shove through approval of a vaccine without proper scientific study so he could benefit prior to the election. And anti-vaccine groups latched on to the doubt to spread even more fear and disinformation.

There have always been doubts about vaccines, but the attitude has grown sharply in recent years, fueled largely by the power of the social media rumor mill and by those who gained politically and financially.

Society and government must not ignore those rumors but counter them with the facts that science now has more safety regulations and better processes than ever before when it comes to developing and releasing vaccines.

There is still time to combat the anti-vaccine messages, but time is running out. It will likely be late next summer before everyone who wants the vaccine will get it. We all need to work to ensure that by that time enough Americans choose to get vaccinated to put this horror behind us.