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Health literacy in the time of COVID-19

In a time when much of the media’s focus is on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the differences in vaccination rates between various regions, countries, and socioeconomic groups, improving health literacy has never been more important.

COVID-19 has prompted an interest in microbiology, immunology, epidemiology, and public health never seen on this scale before. However, it has also further polarized the population when it comes to public health measures such as vaccines and face masks.

In a 2020 survey conducted in a nationally representative sample of 3,133 adults in the USA, 20% of respondents intended to decline a vaccine once available. The most important determinants of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy were distrust of the vaccine safety and general vaccine avoidance, as implied by not having had a flu shot in the last two years. Further, the authors noted that inconsistent risk messages from public health experts and elected officials may reduce vaccine uptake. Likewise, a survey conducted in Portugal in late 2020 identified having no intention of taking the flu vaccine and perception of the information provided as inconsistent and contradictory as two key factors associated with COVID-19 vaccine hesitance. This indicates that clear, easy-to-understand, and consistent messaging is key to improving health literacy and fighting misinformation.

In addition to vaccine hesitancy, Vergara et al. (2021) highlighted that two even bigger challenges that public health authorities will be facing in the new normal are the “postmodern condition of information blast” and “the objectivity of the held truth.” We are looking at a brand-new type of epidemic–an “infodemic”–where fake news and false scientific claims are progressively spread.

However, identifying the problem is only the first step. The challenge is coming up with a solution.

Read the full article here.

14th September 2021

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