We need herd immunity against COVID-19 vaccine misinformation

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Misleading claims about COVID-19 vaccines can negatively impact public confidence in vaccine uptake, a new UNSW study in Sydney shows.

A new study published in the journal PLOS ONE found that over 103 million people worldwide liked, shared, retweeted or emoji responded to misinformation and conspiracy theories about COVID-19 vaccines.

In 2020, a social media post was posted on Facebook accounts in Australia claiming “a new vaccine against COVID-19 will alter a person’s DNA and cause them to be genetically modified”. By August 21, 2020, that false claim had attracted 360 stocks and had been viewed 32,000 times.

The study, led by UNSW researchers, examined content such as news articles, social media posts, online reports and blogs between December 2019 and November 2020.

Associate Professor Holly Seale of UNSW Medicine & Health’s School of Population Health and lead author on the study said the misinformation shared by family members, friends and others on the wider community network was worrying.

“From previous studies, we have been able to link this misinformation to negative outcomes, including death,” explained A / Prof Seale.

Also of concern was the lack of fact-based information to counter the spread of these conspiracy theories and rumors on multiple social media platforms, which may be misunderstood as credible information. Additionally, the study identified numerous rumors and conspiracy theories that could negatively affect public confidence in COVID-19 vaccines and willingness to receive the vaccine.

A national US adult survey in September 2020 on readiness to receive the COVID-19 vaccine found a 21% decrease compared to another national survey conducted in May 2020 of similar groups. This decrease could be due to exposure to misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines on social media. In another study conducted among Australian adults, 24% were unsure or unwilling to accept a COVID-19 vaccine. 89% of these people were concerned about the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine, and 27% did not think a COVID-19 vaccine was necessary.

The misinformation investigated included content ranging from vaccine development to mortality from COVID-19 vaccination.

One widespread post claimed that a Russian vaccine company was missing phase three clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine. This claim sparked concern and criticism in the scientific community that the vaccine had not been tested for efficacy or safety, which could lead to global concern and vaccine reluctance.

Another post on social media suggested that 160 doctors opposed the COVID-19 vaccine because it could alter human DNA or alter genes that could cause cancer and infertility.

The most popular conspiracy theory spread online was the claim that the COVID-19 vaccine could monitor the human population and take over the world. One theory is that the COVID-19 vaccine would contain a microchip that could be used to collect biometric data, and large companies could use 5G networks to send signals to the chips and thus control humanity.

To counter the misinformation and conspiracy theories surrounding COVID-19 vaccines, the researchers suggest that traditional methods of risk communication and community engagement need to be explored in order to track and verify misinformation in order to immunize people against misinformation and so potential Prevent disruptions to the vaccination program.

“We only looked at the open and free platforms, which included Facebook, Twitter and other similar networks. But then there are the closed networks like WhatsApp and WeChat. We still have very little understanding of the role of misinformation where it is.” has its origin and what kind of effects it has, so much more research needs to be done in this area. ”

COVID vaccine: Instagram suggested posts recommending misinformation about vaccines, a report said

More information:
PLOS ONE (2021). journals.plos.org/plosone/arti… journal.pone.0251605 Provided by the University of New South Wales

Quote: We need herd immunity against misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines (2021, May 12th) released on May 12th, 2021 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-05-herd-immunity-covid-vaccine- misinformation.html

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