Parents’ beliefs in misinformation about vaccines are strengthened by pro-vaccine campaigns

  • Sara PluvianoEmail author
  • Caroline Watt
  • Giovanni Ragazzini
  • Sergio Della Sala
Research Article


The main objective of this study was to determine whether one of the most commonly employed pro-vaccination strategies based on the “myths vs. facts” format can be considered an effective tool to counter vaccines misinformation. Sixty parents were randomly presented with either a control message or a booklet confronting some common myths about vaccines with a number of facts. Beliefs in the autism/vaccines link and in vaccines side effects, along with intention to vaccinate one’s child, were evaluated both immediately after the intervention and after a 7-day delay to reveal possible backfire effects. Data provided support for the existence of backfire effects associated with the use of the myths vs. facts format, with parents in this condition having stronger vaccine misconceptions over time compared with participants in the control condition. The myths vs. facts strategy proved to be ineffective. Efforts to counter vaccine misinformation should take into account the many variables that affect the parents’ decision-making.


Vaccine misinformation Myths vs. facts format Backfire effects Parents’ decision-making 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

10339_2019_919_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (282 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 282 kb)


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Copyright information

© Marta Olivetti Belardinelli and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK
  2. 2.Suor Orsola Benincasa UniversityNaplesItaly
  3. 3.Family PediatricianASL 2 SavoneseSavonaItaly

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