The erosion of trust in health information?

QUICK READ: The belief that the development of a vaccine for coronavirus is being dangerously rushed, in part to improve Donald Trump’s prospects ahead of the presidential election in November are very real. In addition, Avaaz discovered that”global health misinformation spreading networks” had generated roughly 3.8 billion views for their content on Facebook. The peak of this misinformation occurred in April when an estimated 460 million Facebook views were logged.

The only way we are going to beat COVID-19 is with a vaccine and common sense behaviors. Given that too many people refuse to follow common-sense guidelines it’s essential that we develop a vaccine that can protect us from this deadly virus.

The current administration has excelled at pushing out false narratives when it comes to the virus. They have awarded a lot of money to potential vaccine candidates even though we are months away from successful testing and the public is nervous.

It’s estimated that between 30-40% of people won’t get the vaccine because they either don’t believe in vaccines or they have lost trust in our government to approve a safe and effective vaccine. This is disturbing on too many levels.

Polls show that as the pandemic has continued, US citizens have become less confident about the safety of a vaccine. Polling by YouGov in May found that around 55 percent of US adults said they would get a Covid-19 vaccine. By the end of July, that figure had dropped to 41 percent — well below the 60-70 percent public health experts think will be needed to achieve “herd immunity”.

Whoever is behind the increase in anti-vaccination sentiment, public health officials in the US know they have to act fast to halt it if they want to ensure any Covid-19 vaccine provides herd immunity.

Health Information Online

Health misinformation is a global public health threat. Studies have shown that anti-vaccination communities prosper on Facebook, that the social media platform acts as a ‘vector’ for conspiracy beliefs that are hindering people from protecting themselves during the COVID-19 outbreak, and that bogus health cures thrive on the social media platform. This is according to Avaaz.

At the same time, JMIR found “that the use of social media platforms had a significant positive influence on public health protection against COVID-19 as a pandemic. Public health awareness and public health behavioral changes significantly acted as partial mediators in this relationship. Therefore, a better understanding of the effects of the use of social media interventions on public health protection against COVID-19 while taking public health awareness and behavioral changes into account as mediators should be helpful when developing any health promotion strategy plan”.

What this research tells me is that when it comes to online health information it’s “reader beware”.

As I have said many times pharma has an opportunity here to help online health seekers get credible and reliable health information online. It starts with an understanding that people need to fully understand certain health conditions and treatments. It may not directly drive brand objectives but it’s essential if pharma wants to win back lost trust with the public.

We need to better understand, by a health condition, is exactly what online health seekers NEED and WANT as opposed to what DTC marketers want to push to them. In an era of increased telemedicine consultations, patients aren’t getting all their questions answered and they are turning to online in greater numbers.

Will the mistrust in vaccinations carry over into a mistrust of newly approved medications? That research still needs to be done but I believe it will vary by health condition.

The current administration is more determined to prove itself right via poor health information than do what’s best for patients. We’ve taken a step back and we need to understand that online health seekers need help and they need it now.