Jiu Jitsu with misinformation in the age of Covid

Using refutation-based learning to enhance vaccine uptake and knowledge among healthcare professionals and the public.


JITSUVAX is an EU Horizon 2020 funded project coordinated by the University of Bristol working with five other EU institutions as well as one in Canada. The project will run from April 2021 until March 2025.

The JITSUVAX team consists of psychologists, epidemiologists, behavioural scientists, clinicians and others. Together we are investigating misinformation around vaccines which may lead to people being less likely to accept vaccination. We will be testing ways of combatting this misinformation and helping healthcare professionals to communicate with patients.

Where is JITSUVAX based?

The individual groups are based at the University of Bristol and the University of Cambridge in the UK, the Turun yliopisto in Finland, the L'Observatoire Régional de la Santé in France, the Universität Erfurt in Germany, the Universidade de Coimbra in Portugal and the Université de Sherbrooke in Canada.

Jitsuvax on Map

What is misinformation?

Misinformation is wrong information. It can come from a variety of sources and for a variety of reasons: the common factor is that it can be disproven. Examples can be seen in the Vaccine Communication Wiki where commonly seen misinformation about Covid-19 vaccinations is described and analysed using evidence.

What is vaccine hesitancy?

The WHO SAGE Working Group on Vaccine Hesitancy defines vaccine hesitancy as 'delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccination despite availability of vaccination services'. It is a behavioural decision to delay or reject some or all vaccines.

How is JITSUVAX planning to combat misinformation?

The first steps are to identify and analyse the anti-vaccination arguments that circulate on social media and elsewhere. We will also develop and trial a questionnaire that measures attitudes and behaviours around vaccination in healthcare professionals. Later steps will include using this questionnaire to measure and compare results across our six countries as well as developing and trialling methods of combatting misinformation, such as training, apps, and computer games.

How will the results of the JITSUVAX project be used?

We will develop training procedures, apps and guidance documents that can be used to help healthcare workers fight misinformation around vaccines. These will be shared widely and freely across Europe and beyond using existing healthcare networks.

Is this just about Covid?

No – the project was designed before anyone had heard of Covid-19. However as the project plan was developed Covid-19 also hit and it became apparent that Covid would be hugely important in any discussion about vaccinations. The project includes tackling misinformation about vaccinations against Covid as well as many diseases such as measles, whooping cough and flu.

Why ‘Jiu Jitsu’ with misinformation?

A Jiu Jitsu ‘model of persuasion' was described in 2017 in a peer-reviewed paper by Hornsey & Fielding. ‘Jiu Jitsu is a martial art that coaches people to use the opponents’ force against them, rather than trying to defeat it head-on….. It teaches that small or lightweight fighters can win by using leverage, gravity, and momentum to defeat more powerful opponents, in other words, by turning the opponent’s power into an asset.’ In short, we are trying to find ways of working with people’s motivations rather than fighting them.