1. Kirton, Carl A. DNP, MBA, RN, ANP


Vaccine misinformation continues to plague our profession.


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Growing up, I, like many of you, was subjected to many folk remedies. One of my mother's favorites was that for any aches or pains, one only had to rub isopropyl alcohol-or rubbing alcohol-on the afflicted area and everything would be fine. (I don't know why, but it had to be the wintergreen type.) Even after I became a nurse and explained that this remedy offered little to no benefit, she held on to her belief. Scientists call this the "continued influence effect"-misinformation that continues to influence people's thinking even after they receive a correction and accept that correction as true.

Figure. Carl A. Kirt... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. Carl A. Kirton

This summer, nurse editors and authors gathered at the annual International Academy of Nursing Editors conference, where we were fortunate to attend a keynote session by Lisa Fazio, PhD, associate professor of psychology and human development at Vanderbilt University, who discussed her research on misinformation. As you know, there is an increase of misinformation in this country, whether regarding climate change, election results, or critical race theory. Of importance to nurses, there continues to be a great deal of misinformation that affects the public's health, particularly concerning the benefits of vaccines. Despite evidence supporting these benefits, misinformation surrounding vaccination abounds. According to Fazio, simply correcting a false belief is not enough. There are various reasons why people hold on to false beliefs. For example, the repetition of false statements has an impact. Think about how many times you have heard the words "stolen election." You hear it enough, it gets stuck in your brain, much like a song you can't get out of your head.


It should come as no surprise that zoonotic diseases are on the rise. I still remember my professor in nursing school talking about smallpox and polio as examples of eradicated diseases in the United States, and yet here we are. Vaccines are an important part of keeping these viruses in check and the human population well. (Indeed, this month's From the AJN Archives from 1962 is one example of how effective a polio vaccine campaign in one community can be.)


As nurses, we should be alarmed by the significant findings of the original research by Lisa Roberts and colleagues presented in this issue. In their study, 21% of the nurses surveyed were not vaccinated for COVID-19, and these nurses' belief in misinformation made them seven times more likely to be vaccine hesitant. I admit, I was not an early adopter of the COVID-19 vaccine; but as I learned more and saw the devastating effects COVID-19 was having on the community I was caring for, I quickly and willingly rolled up my sleeves to protect myself and others. Misinformation is not a new topic for AJN, and we have published several outstanding articles on the subject (see "Countering Vaccine Misinformation," October 2019, and "Nurses Spreading Misinformation," December 2021, for just two examples). I eagerly wait for researchers like Fazio to explain why misinformation continues to plague our profession and to guide us in developing the most effective strategies to combat it.


Here is what I suggest in the interim. As the most trusted health professionals, nurses need to ensure that our teaching, coaching, and guidance is always evidence based. Personal opinions should be used carefully in nurse-patient interactions; I will be so bold as to say they should be eliminated. As a nurse, I often have friends, family, and patients ask me about a particular situation: what would you do? In my responses, I am always careful to represent what we know about the situation, and to acknowledge when we lack answers to the questions that remain. This is how a scientist like Fazio thinks.


Because we are a science-based nursing journal, you can rest assured that we carefully screen, review, and edit anything thought to be misinformation and that you can trust and use the knowledge gained from the articles within. As nurses, we must push back on public health misinformation where and when we can, so that we don't return to the days when viruses such as polio thrived and spread, and human health needlessly suffered.