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Fake news does not increase no-vaxes

Livio Gigliuto, Vice President of Istituto Piepoli, takes stock of the phenomenon of fake news and no-vaxes for Agenda Digitale, directed by Alessandro Longo.

It is not fake news that swells the ranks of no vaxes: despite being an important problem, disinformation does not change opinions.

To better understand what is happening in Italian Public Opinion (a similar situation can also be found in the USA, where some states do not reach 40% vaccination coverage, and in almost all European countries), it is useful however take a step back, and go to the first, terrible months of the pandemic.

Almost 9 months after the official start of the anti-covid vaccination campaign in Italy, after the first months dominated by the scarcity of doses available and the difficulty in organizing distribution logistics, to date about 60% of the Italian population has received both doses of serum and about 70% received at least one.

With the second wave, and the certification that this would not be a brief parenthesis in the life of the Planet, the hope that science could find a solution that did not pass only through painful restrictions on social life became more pressing.

Also for this reason, at the end of November 2020, when the launch of the campaign was announced in our country, more than 7 out of 10 Italians said they were already available to receive the vaccine. On the other hand, even then we found a 15% unwillingness, a 6% uncertain and a hard core, which reached 9%, of Italians openly opposed to vaccination.

An important share of opposites and uncertainties already existed, therefore, in those months, when the machine for producing false news had not yet started, and the (few but painful) adverse cases had not yet emerged, with particular emphasis on the Astrazeneca case.

Since then, the share of Italians available for vaccination has been continuously growing, reaching almost 90% in March 2021. The growth trend in the propensity to vaccinate has almost never undergone phases of arrest, with the exception, of course, of a slight decline coinciding with the onset of adverse events, which usually resulted in a drop of a few percentage points which was immediately reabsorbed in the following weeks.

Even in these days, the findings of the Piepoli Institute say that about 15% of the unvaccinated are not available for vaccination, and of these only 5% are openly opposed. The no-vaxes are few, and they have not increased.

The feeling, therefore, is that fake news are not able to change the opinions of those who are willing to get vaccinated and do not move Italians from the ranks of those who want to those of those who do not want to receive the serum.

This, of course, doesn’t mean that fake news isn’t hurting the fight against covid. In fact, it is likely that a debate, especially on social media, seems to provide equal dignity to verified information and fake news has prompted someone to delay vaccination a bit, taking time and “seeing how it goes“.

The debate between for and against, sometimes also animated by politics, is polarizing positions, risking to crystallize them and making it increasingly difficult to convince those against. Those who are against it are more and more opposed and are more and more convinced of their own reasons.

This is how the convictions of the no-vax are being strengthened, providing them with an ever-increasing number of arguments (practically always denied within a few minutes, but in the meantime always available and re-launched) and also representing this battle, like many other views in Italy, as a comparison between Guelphs and Ghibellines, in which both positions are legitimate and one compares at the table between no-vax and pro-vax, booking strictly outdoors, where the green pass is not needed.

Livio Gigliuto for Agenda Digitale