Jump to Main Content
Does correcting myths about the flu vaccine work? An experimental evaluation of the effects of corrective information
- Nyhan, Brendan, Reifler, Jason
- Vaccine 2015 v.33 no.3 pp. 459-464
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Internet, adverse effects, influenza, public health, surveys, vaccination, vaccines, United States
- Seasonal influenza is responsible for thousands of deaths and billions of dollars of medical costs per year in the United States, but influenza vaccination coverage remains substantially below public health targets. One possible obstacle to greater immunization rates is the false belief that it is possible to contract the flu from the flu vaccine. A nationally representative survey experiment was conducted to assess the extent of this flu vaccine misperception. We find that a substantial portion of the public (43%) believes that the flu vaccine can give you the flu. We also evaluate how an intervention designed to address this concern affects belief in the myth, concerns about flu vaccine safety, and future intent to vaccinate. Corrective information adapted from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website significantly reduced belief in the myth that the flu vaccine can give you the flu as well as concerns about its safety. However, the correction also significantly reduced intent to vaccinate among respondents with high levels of concern about vaccine side effects – a response that was not observed among those with low levels of concern. This result, which is consistent with previous research on misperceptions about the MMR vaccine, suggests that correcting myths about vaccines may not be an effective approach to promoting immunization.