New Research Provides Insight into COVID-19 Vaccine Reluctancy Among Social Media Users

April 22, 2021
Jill Murphy, Associate Editor

The researchers’ analysis was based on a large representative sample survey carried out in November to December 2020, which examined a range of factors that previous studies had found to be related to hesitancy about getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

New research has found that the most reliable indicators of willingness to be vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2 are rejection of conspiracy suspicions about COVID-19 and a positive attitude toward vaccines in general, according to a study by King’s College London and the University of Bristol.

The researchers’ analysis was based on a large representative sample survey carried out in November to December 2020, which examined a range of factors that previous studies had found to be related to hesitancy about getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

The study found that women, young people, less-educated people, and members of other than white ethnic groups are more hesitant about getting vaccinated. Additionally, the study found that people who get their information about COVID-19 from social media are more hesitant about getting vaccinated.

However, the researchers also found that many of these differences can be explained by people’s attitudes toward vaccines in general and whether or not they suspect that there has been a conspiracy or cover-up connected with COVID-19.

The analysis revealed that vaccine hesitancy among people who get their information about COVID-19 from social media is completely accounted for by more negative vaccine attitudes and stronger conspiracy suspicions. Further, vaccine hesitancy among members of other than white ethnic groups and members of low-income households is almost completely accounted for by more negative vaccine attitudes and stronger conspiracy suspicions, according to the study authors.

"These findings provide a powerful insight into why heavy users of social media appear to be less confident about being vaccinated against coronavirus: they tend to have more negative attitudes to vaccines in general and they are more likely to suspect that conspiracy theories about the pandemic may be true,” said lead study author Daniel Allington, MD, in the press release.

Among those who have negative views of vaccines or who suspect that COVID-19 conspiracy theories are accurate, more highly educated people appear to be more vaccine hesitant than less highly educated people. However, greater vaccine hesitancy among women and young people is not explained by conspiracy suspicions or by attitudes to vaccines in general, according to the study.

"This study gives insight into the connections between fundamental characteristics such as ethnicity and education, and attitudes to vaccination against coronavirus. We have found that conspiracist suspicions and attitudes to vaccines in general form part of the connection - attitudes which likely preceded the current pandemic,” said Siobhan McAndrew, MD, principal investigator of the research project. “The question for policy-makers is how to restore fundamental trust over the long-term, in the interests of public health."

REFERENCE

New research provides insight into COVID-19 vaccine reluctancy among social media users. EurekAlert! Published April 14, 2021. Accessed April 16, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-04/uob-nrp041421.php