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Surprise! The pandemic has made people more savvy


But science – in particular the new Science — routinely faces opposition. Early in the AIDS epidemic, scientists discovered HIV, the virus that causes the disease. “There have been people here in the United States, all over the world who have said, ‘Well, I know they have identified this virus, and they say it causes AIDS, but I don’t think it’s true,'” Brandt.

“This is not surprising,” he continues. “In epidemics, there are always these kinds of discussions. But people soon become convinced.”

Although it may seem that Covid-19 has plagued us forever, scientists have in fact only been two years into the twin processes of understanding the disease and educating the public about it. Jamieson’s team at the Center for Public Policy in Annenberg has conducted surveys of scientific knowledge throughout the pandemic. They asked participants for their thoughts on the effectiveness of vaccines, masks, and other behaviors. Despite the work spiral of false beliefs against knowledge, Jamieson found that people actually learn. In two surveys of nearly 800 random Americans conducted in July and November of 2020, the majority of respondents said they agreed that wearing masks helps prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses. That number jumped from 79 to 85 percent over the five-month period. In a separate survey from March and April this year, 75 percent said getting a Covid-19 vaccine is safer than getting the virus. “Most people get the answers right,” Jamison says. “And they didn’t have any of these answers before Covid because these answers are specific to Covid.”

However, this is not so 100 percent. But for Jamison, it’s an astonishing number worth celebrating. “People don’t just accept new vaccines,” she says. “If they do that, we will get a higher rate of the HPV vaccine. We will have a higher uptake of the influenza vaccine. This is a sign that they have learned something.”

Participants who were hesitant about vaccines in Jamison’s study showed that they learned something new about public health, too. The 2021 survey was conducted after the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, but before the Pfizer shot was given full approval. People told us, ‘It hasn’t been declared yet. No, wait a minute! I did not mean that. was not agreed Jamison says. “They now know something about the approval process and the authorization process.”

This exposure to new terms kept Sneller fascinated by the linguistics project. “One thing that struck me was how scientifically literate our teenage participants were about things like mRNA vaccines,” Sneller says. In their weekly audio diaries, participants talk about their daily lives, and some teens talk about mRNA vaccines and how they differ from other formulations. This is a developing science, and for a long time it was not part of the school curriculum. “This is happening directly because of the epidemic,” Sneller says.

Young children learn more health sciences, too. Early in the pandemic, researchers surveyed children ages 7 to 12 from the United Kingdom, Sweden, Brazil, Spain, Canada and Australia. The team created an online survey to ask children and their parents what they know about the outbreak – and what they want to know. “Really early on, kids were saying, ‘When will the vaccine be available?'” says Lucy Bray, a pediatric nurse and professor of pediatric health literacy at Edge Hill University in the United Kingdom, who led the study. He asked the children why the epidemic had started. They asked if their families would be safe. “Really reasonable and thoughtful questions,” she says.

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