COVID-19 has triggered two parallel pandemics – a biological one with the spread of the virus and a social one with the spread of misinformation and disinformation. In a national survey of 840 respondents, users of conservative media, in particular, held stronger beliefs in conspiracy theories than users of less conservative media. Researchers found that although social media platforms have been having some success in limiting the spread of inaccurate information, conservative media still needs to be proactive in reporting reliable information instead of false claims.
Scientists are tracking and tagging false information that still circulates on social media, which is having a negative effect on vaccine uptake. They learned a lot about misinformation and disinformation during the US presidential election, and they are now shifting their focus to false claims about COVID-19 vaccines. For example, the Virality Project is expanding strategies to help inform social media platforms about ways to tackle vaccine disinformation.
To help lay individuals address the infodemic, UNICEF and the Yale Institute for Global Health have created a vaccine misinformation guide to respond to the false information circulating about the COVID-19 vaccines. The guide provides readers with information about preparing, listening, understanding, and engaging with information.
In this mixed methods study of COVID-19 social media messages, researchers found that most of the anti-vaccine rhetoric was influenced by political and nonmedical users. With less than 10% of messages coming from the medical community, the researchers argued that the lack of health care provider connectivity in addressing COVID-19 information is leading to a public health threat. This non-action by health care providers has led to what the researchers term “health care provider social media hesitancy.” They offer multilevel strategies for encouraging the medical community to engage in social media to provide pro-vaccine and scientific information and to combat the threat of vaccine misinformation and hesitancy. But before providers engage in this type of communication, it is important to recognize and address the vaccine hesitancy that exists among health care workers. This scoping review found that health care providers are vital to reducing the burden of the pandemic by modeling prevention behaviors and vaccinating others, but communication and education strategies must first target hesitant health care workers so that their work can positively influence the public.
Encouraging health care providers to actively engage with the public is important as health authorities are considered the most trusted sources of health information, which leads to a greater likelihood of vaccination. This study determined that information frames focusing on individual risk, highlighting concern for COVID-19, and targeting increasing trust in health professionals to be most effective at persuading people to engage in public health measures.