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Covid-19: How Social Media Can Tackle Vaccine Hesitancy

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One in three adults in the UK intends to use social media and personal messaging to encourage people to get vaccinated against Covid-19. In contrast, almost one in 10 intend to discourage people from getting vaccinated using the same platforms, finds new research.

The study, by Loughborough University researchers, is based on an October 2020 survey of 5,114 UK adults that explored how people’s attitudes and their consumption of Covid-19 news links to their intention to use social media and personal messaging apps to encourage or discourage vaccination.

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Around 57 per cent were undecided on if or how they will endorse the vaccines online, revealed the study to be published in the journal Social Media and Society.

“Vaccine hesitancy is a longstanding problem, but it has assumed great urgency due to the pandemic. We know that people’s media diets provide them with the information they share online, and we know online endorsement can make a difference to people’s attitudes and decisions,” said Andrew Chadwick, a Professor at the varsity.

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“Our findings suggest that when people gain a broad perspective, from a range of different media and information sources, they gather evidence and are more likely to positively endorse vaccination online. This is good news for collective public health,” Chadwick added.

The team identified ‘media diets’ for getting news and information about Covid-19 among the UK public. It was then linked to vaccine hesitancy and two key attitudes: conspiracy mentality — the hostile distrust of public authorities based on a false belief that secret organizations influence political decisions — and the news finds me perception — where people give low priority to active monitoring of news and rely more on their online networks of friends for information.

The findings showed a clear link between vaccine hesitancy and the intention to use social media and personal messaging apps to discourage others from getting vaccinated.

“Avoiding news and having a ‘news-finds-me’ attitude is perhaps most troubling, because this combination of factors links with the online discouragement of others from taking the vaccine,” Chadwick said.

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