Vaccine Hesitancy and Exposure to Misinformation: a Survey Analysis

This article was originally published here

J Gen Intern Med. 2021 Oct 20. doi: 10.1007/s11606-021-07171-z. Online ahead of print.


INTRODUCTION: Despite the widespread availability of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines in the USA, vaccine hesitancy continues to represent a significant impediment to the attainment of herd immunity and the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. This survey analysis provides an update for clinical healthcare providers and public health officials regarding current trends in misinformation exposure, as well as common objections to COVID-19 vaccination.

METHODS: We conducted a web-based survey of 600 adults in the state of Florida between June 3 and June 14, 2021. Access to the sample was purchased through an industry-leading market research provider (Prodege MR), and survey respondents were selected using a stratified, quota sampling approach to ensure representativeness. Balanced quotas were determined (by region of the state) for gender, age, race, education, and ethnicity. The survey responses were analyzed using basic descriptive statistics, as well as chi-square testing and a logit regression model.

FINDINGS: High levels of misinformation exposure were observed among participants, with 73% reporting some exposure to misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines in the past 6 months. Exposure to misinformation was directly correlated with vaccine hesitancy. Among those who did not report any exposure to misinformation, 73.8% of respondents were vaccinated. That number fell to 62.9% with exposure to just one misinformation theme and 52.2% for six or more (χ2 = 11.349; φ = 0.138; p ≤ 0.05). Politicization was also found to be a major factor in vaccine hesitancy, with 73.4% of self-identified Democrats being vaccinated, compared to only 58.5% of Republicans and 56.5% of Independents (χ2 = 16.334; φ = 0.165; p ≤ 0.001). Both misinformation exposure and political affiliation were strong predictors of vaccination even after accounting for other demographic predictors.

DISCUSSION: The survey results add to previous research on misinformation and vaccine hesitancy by quantifying exposure to specific misinformation themes and identifying its relationship to vaccine hesitancy. Overcoming these impediments to vaccination will require strategic and targeted messaging on the part of public health professionals, which may be aided by collaboration with political thought leaders. Understanding the volume and nature of misinformation themes the public is exposed to regarding COVID-19 vaccines may aid public health officials in targeting this vaccine messaging to more directly address reasons for vaccine hesitancy.

PMID:34671900 | DOI:10.1007/s11606-021-07171-z