Vaccine Hesitancy: The Twofold Problem for Adult Learners
Posted by Laura McLoughlin on June 23, 2021 in categoryFacts & ResearchcategoryMember Tips


Misinformation is one of the biggest problems in public health, affecting people’s ability to understand and make decisions about their own health, according to the Pan American Health Organization. 

This is important now as communities push to get their populations vaccinated. Reliable information can be the key to fighting vaccine hesitancy. There are a number of reasons someone might be cautious of the COVID-19 vaccine. Some people don’t know enough about it, others are afraid of unpleasant side effects, some have religious beliefs that prevent them from vaccinating, and still others believe the vaccines are actually injecting tiny microchips in people to track them 

While some reasons for being slow to get vaccinated might seem understandable, others, well, can seem a bit absurd. The vaccine will not turn you into a monkey, it is not experimental, and you will not become magnetic, nor should you believe any other false or somewhat wild claimsSo, you might wonder how these misconceptions get started and why someone would be willing to accept one as truth. 

How do they get started? Well, let’s leave that for another time. Instead, let’s look at why someone believes misinformation as fact. 

Trusted government health agencies assure us that the vaccines are safe and effective. We are promised that the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh any risks or side effects. 

But what if you didn’t know where to find reliable informationOr, what if you couldn’t understand the information being communicatedThere seems to be a dual set of issues pushing vaccine misconception and hesitancya lack of health literacy combined with a lack of media literacy—which are more likely to affect adults with low literacy skills. 

In the field of adult literacy, we are aware of the link between low education levels and low health literacy. People with low health literacy skills often have difficulty with reading, writing, numeracy, communication, and the use of technologyWithout these skills, adults are unable to understand the information that is presented. This can explain why some people aren’t getting their shots simply because they don’t know enough.  

On the other hand, people have so much information coming at them from every directionIf they don’t know what a trusted source is, they can easily confuse fake information for the truth. 

The answer therefore must also be twofold—continue teaching basic literacy, numeracy, and digital skills so learners can better understand and comprehend health care information, but also spend time helping learners build media literacy skills. You could even do so in the context of true and false information about the COVID-19 vaccine—because every person who is vaccinated brings all of us closer to a life free from the daily threats of COVID-19. 


News for You, the weekly newspaper from New Readers Press, is offering a free story and exercise about using media literacy to combat misconceptions about the COVID-10 vaccine 

The News Literacy Project offers some great educator tools to teach news literacy in the classroom. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shares some myths and facts about the COVID-19 vaccines. 



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