People who rely on social media for information were more likely to be misinformed about vaccines than those who rely on traditional media, according to a study of vaccine knowledge and media use by researchers at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.
The study, based on nationally representative surveys of nearly 2,500 U.S. adults, found that up to 20% of respondents were at least somewhat misinformed about vaccines. Such a high level of misinformation is "worrying" because misinformation undermines vaccination rates, and high vaccination rates are required to maintain community immunity, the researchers said.
The study, published in the Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review , was conducted in the spring and fall of 2019, when the United States experienced its largest measles outbreak in a quarter century. Between the two survey periods, 19% of the respondents' levels of vaccine misinformation changed in a substantive way - and within that group, almost two-thirds (64%) were more misinformed in the fall than in the spring.
Media consumption patterns helped to explain the change in misinformation levels, the researchers found. Those respondents who reported increased exposure to information about measles and the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine on social media were more likely to grow more misinformed about vaccines. By contrast, those people who reported an increased exposure to news accounts about those topics in traditional media were more likely to grow less misinformed about vaccines.
People who received their information from traditional media were less likely to endorse anti-common vaccination claims." Dominik Stecula, lead author, postdoctoral fellow in the science of science communication program at APPC
He co-authored the study with Ozan Kuru, another APPC postdoctoral fellow, and APPC Director Kathleen Hall Jamieson.
The result is consistent with research suggesting that social media contain a fair amount of misinformation about vaccination while traditional media are more likely to reflect the scientific consensus on its benefits and safety, according to the Annenberg researchers. 'Worrying' levels of vaccine misinformation
The researchers found that: 18% of respondents mistakenly say that it is very or somewhat accurate to state that vaccines cause autism; 15% mistakenly agree that it is very or somewhat accurate to state that vaccines are full of toxins; 20% wrongly report that it is very or somewhat accurate to state that it makes no difference whether parents choose to delay or spread out vaccines instead of relying on the official vaccine schedule from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); and 19% incorrectly say it is very or somewhat accurate to state that it is better to develop immunity by getting the disease than by vaccination. Medical experts and media consumption Related Stories
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