Most commentators treat vaccine hesitancy as part of a bigger problem: the death of expertise. Maya Goldenberg disagrees: vaccine hesitancy has to do with trust.
According to the received narrative, people have stopped listening to experts, relying instead on Google searches and social media influencers for advice on important topics. There is an ongoing war, the narrative continues, between knowledge and ignorance, and the way to win the war it is by educating the public, those who think a scientific paper and a blog post by a lay person have the same claim to truth.
Only this approach doesn’t seem to be working. Maya Goldenberg, associate professor at the University of Guelph, and author of the forthcoming Vaccine Hesitancy: Public Trust, Expertise, and the War on Science, believes it’s because this is the wrong approach. Phenomena such as vaccine hesitancy don’t exist because the public is ignorant and doesn’t understand the science. Vaccine hesitancy exists because the public has lost trust in scientists and the public bodies they advise. The way to tackle people’s concerns therefore isn’t by yet another public information campaign, but by listening to those concerns, addressing them, and in the process, regaining the public’s trust.
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