Lack of trust and social media echo chambers predict COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy

Will Jennings et al. of the University of Southampton has published the findings of a survey and focus group study of UK adults. The authors found that trust and mistrust are core predictors of vaccine hesitancy, with distrust in vaccines in general and mistrust in government raising vaccine hesitancy.


Keywords: COVID-19; vaccination; trust; misinformation

As COVID-19 vaccines are rolled out across the world, there are growing concerns about the role that trust, belief in conspiracy theories and spread of misinformation through social media impact vaccine hesitancy. We use a nationally representative survey of 1,476 adults in the UK between
December 12 to 18, 2020 and five focus groups conducted in the same period. Trust is a core predictor, with distrust in vaccines in general and mistrust in government raising vaccine hesitancy. Trust in health institutions and experts and perceived personal threat are vital, with focus groups revealing that COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy is driven by a misunderstanding of herd immunity as providing protection, fear of rapid vaccine development and side effects, belief the virus is manmade and related to population control. Particularly those who obtain information from relatively unregulated social media sources such as YouTube that have recommendations tailored by watch history are less likely to be willing to become vaccinated. Those who hold general conspiratorial beliefs are less willing to be vaccinated. Since an increasing number of individuals use social media for gathering health information, interventions require action from governments, health officials and social media companies. More attention needs to help people understand their own risks, unpack complex concepts and fill knowledge voids.

Published by David F Marks

Author, editor, psychologist.

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