Dr Karl Kruszelnicki’s frustration with COVID-19 vaccine myths
Dozens of Australians have fallen into “a whole bunch of lies” around the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines.
This is the opinion of famous scientific author, Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, who revealed the COVID myths circulating on social media that he finds most frustrating to refute.
The Triple J host told news.com.au that misinformation about everything from the pandemic to climate change has spread mainly because misunderstandings and lies are easy to understand.
In contrast, the truth is complex, sometimes imperfect, and takes longer to explain.
Dr Kruszelnicki will appear at the Sydney Writers Festival Friday during a round table on the theme of science The rise of the wheelchair epidemiologist.
Since the start of the pandemic, epidemiology has shifted from a debate mostly on college campuses to a people-to-people debate, as the name of the session suggests, sitting in armchairs at home.
But Dr Kruszelnicki, who has just published his 47th book titled Little Climate Change Science Bookce, said too many of these discussions were fueled by rumors and misinformation.
âFake news travels much faster thanks to the Internet. You can end up following a series of lies over and over again and down the rabbit hole, âhe said.
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Conspiracy theories and misinformation are easy to spread
The conspiracy theories swirling around the 5G towers and Bill Gates were the most barrier claims some uninformed chair epidemiologists have made, Dr Kruszelnicki said.
But there were other claims he had heard over and over again that continually infuriated him.
One of them was to say that the vaccines were not effective. Dr Kruszelnicki said some people have pointed to the Auckland airport worker who recently contracted COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated with the Pfizer jab as evidence.
But it was nothing more than picking an event to back up a questionable claim.
“No, not all vaccines are perfect, and their effectiveness depends on the person but to explain that we have to explain the concept of seroconversion and the complexity of the human body,” he said.
In a small number of cases, vaccines may take longer to work on some people or they may need more vaccines, Dr Kruszelnicki said. He had to receive four injections of the hepatitis B vaccine, he said, before he said he was producing antibodies.
But that didn’t mean it wasn’t a crucial hit that was very effective.
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The truth takes longer to explain than the lies
The complexity of the truth was also an issue. And in situations such as a pandemic, advice on how best to manage health may change.
“We run into this factor which is called the ‘bull asymmetry factor ** t’ or ‘BAF’,” he said.
âIt’s the realization that it can take 10 times longer to demystify something.
“So I could say that ‘climate change is not real, the climate has always changed and on top of that, that means you have to wear one less sweater in winter.’
âThey took me seven seconds to say it. But to demystify it, I should talk about the Milankovitch cycle and the orbit of the sun and it takes 15 minutes, or an ABF of 260.
âSo it’s very easy to spit out a whole bunch of lies. And then when you are dealing with something that is really complicated like a vaccine, you end up with people confused when they hear these lies.
Another problem was fear, which means we often pay more attention to extravagant information.
âIf something is weird and new, it really catches your eye because people fear that what you don’t know could kill you,â he explained.
Dr Karl’s most frustrating vaccine myth
There was another inoculation misunderstanding which, according to Dr. Kruszelnicki, had taken too much force.
âIt’s the simple anti-vax claim that vaccines weaken your immune system,â he said.
Again, the problem was that the lie is simple, but the truth is flawed and takes longer to delve into.
“You do not know where to start. Many people don’t know that your immune system may be different from the person next to you.
“But if you look at the cold equations, you’d better get the shot.”
Indeed, data from countries with high vaccination rates, such as Israel and the UK, showed huge declines in both cases and hospitalizations among people who contracted the virus.
Dr Kruszelnicki said there was an “endless number of lies, but one truth” which meant that untruths could spread faster than they could be debunked.
Yet the best weapon to fight disinformation was the truth, he said.
âSpeak the truth, but if the truth changes, then be quick to open up to it as well.â
Dr Karl Kruszelnicki will appear alongside UNSW infectious disease expert Professor Raina MacIntyre and University of Sydney Associate Professor of Science Communication Alice Motion on Friday April 30 at the Sydney Writers Festival at the round tableScience class: The rise of the wheelchair epidemiologist.