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The role of social media in promoting vaccine hesitancy

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Purpose of review

To offer: (1) Insight into the antivaccine movement's use of social media negatively impacting vaccine hesitancy and disease outbreaks, (2) Examples via case observations, and (3) Selected resources to combat vaccine hesitancy.

Recent findings

For the past 25 years, daily social media usage has risen continually, allowing information to spread widely to a reading/listening/viewing audience via mostly unvetted social media sites. During a pandemic/epidemic (e.g., coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic), an overabundance of information from many sources, including social media, has led to what is now termed as an ’infodemic’. Infodemics arise from overwhelming amounts of both correct and incorrect information from experts and nonexperts alike. Differentiating correct from incorrect information is difficult for social media users who can be swayed by nonscientific ’influencers’ or fear-mongering more than by vetted expert scientific information. Consequently, vaccine misinformation is steadily increasing via social media, the use of which is often believed to be associated with vaccine hesitancy. Stopping the spread of misinformation has been a difficult task.Summary

Vaccine misinformation on social media has been detrimental to public health. Vaccine advocates must increase the use of social media to the advantage of public health in the persistent struggle against vaccine hesitancy/refusal.

Keywords: infodemic; social media; vaccine hesitancy; vaccine misinformation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Division of Infectious Diseases, Children's Mercy - Kansas City 2: Office of Research Services, St. Luke's Health System 3: Division of Infectious Diseases, Children's Mercy - Kansas City, The University of Missouri, Kansas City, Missouri, USA

Publication date: April 1, 2022

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