16 February 2021 | Health

With vaccines arriving, here's how to avoid misinformation

Heather Braum
Feb. 16, 2021

Misinformation has become a pressing problem in our society as more and more people depend on social media and other online outlets for their news. This trend is especially true for vaccines, as different COVID-19 vaccines become available.

So how can you know who and what to trust?

For this week’s update, I’m going to answer that question by adapting guidance from librarians who teach about consuming information (full disclosure, I am a librarian by professional training and background). Based on their resources, I want to offer advice and questions to ask when encountering information about vaccines:

When it comes to information, always be skeptical, within reason. Don’t accept what is presented at face value (including this email). Interrogate what you read or see, using these questions as a guide:

  1. Where is the information coming from? Is it from a government health agency, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Kansas Department of Health and Environment; a professional medical association like the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Medical Association, or the American Medical Association; or from a peer-reviewed research journal? Or is it coming from a random social media post or YouTube video?
  2. Who is behind the information? What are the author’s credentials? Their background? The organization they work for or are affiliated with? What’s their earlier work like in this area? What do others say about their work?
  3. What is the original source and context of the information quoted or presented? Where did the information come from? What is the format of that source?
  4. When was the information published? This question is particularly important right now. As we’ve learned over the last year with the pandemic, information can change rapidly with the release of new research. If an article you’ve been sent about the COVID vaccine is from April 2020, and you’re reading it on February 9, 2021, it might not be accurate or up-to-date.

If you are interested in a deeper dive into evaluating information, check out this Evaluating Sources guide from K-State libraries or this Information Savvy Consumer guide from a Canadian library.

Finally, for a reputable source with a Kansas perspective on vaccines, make sure to check out the Immunize Kansas Coalition’s educational module, Protecting Kansans with Immunizationand their accompanying one-pager.


Heather Braum is the Health Policy Advisor for Kansas Action for Children and a member of the Immunize Kansas Coalition. Before joining KAC, she earned a master’s degree in library science in 2008; worked for the Northeast Kansas Library System to support dozens of public, academic, and school libraries; and recently completed doctoral coursework in information science.

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