Anti-vax misinformation on Social media on the rise, researchers warn

The spread of anti-vax misinformation has been on the rise since the pandemic started. Researchers worry that when a vaccine for coronavirus is finally found, a huge chunk of people will not take it.

A team of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) has sounded an alarm over an increasing number of anti-vax posts on social media. The researchers published a paper called (S)pin the Flu Vaccine: Recipes for Concern, that analyzed social media activities in regard to vaccines.

As the world continues battling with coronavirus, which has infected over 20 million and caused upwards of 760,000 fatalities, the spread of misinformation could determine how long the world is able to handle this pandemic.

Anti-vax study

The study focused on social media engagements of posts promoting anti-vax misinformation and posts that are pro-vaccine. From the onset, they were able to determine that posts that criticized vaccine were more likely to have a larger engagement than their counterparts. They were also able to see an increasing pattern of anti-vax promotions in these social media posts.

Although the major social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest had taken a significant step in curbing the spread of this misinformation, researchers found that there were areas that were still lacking.

In their study, they used Pinterest as their preferred social media, due to its demographics that tilts towards more women since they play a significant role in health care decisions. They observed the responses on vaccine information and how people were engaging with the content.

Study conclusion

They concluded that anti-vax content was getting more engagements than valid scientific research on vaccines. They also observed that anti-vax used imageries such as needles to provoke fear among their audience, and they would then continue by spreading misinformation about vaccines.

However, the positive thing they found was that the influencers on the site were promoting scientifically proven facts about vaccines. They also found out that the platform had already started purging misinformation on their platform, something they appreciated.

Coronavirus vaccine may be months away from hitting the market, with over 150 vaccines currently in development. However, even after approval and their safety tested, there still remains a huge chunk of people who will not be willing to take the vaccine. This has led to researchers of the study worry about what impact the anti-vax misinformation is contributing to the negative perception of the vaccine.


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