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Vaccine Insights Hub

Live insights, intelligence and reporting guidance on emerging health and vaccine misinformation.

 

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Google Trends

Continued search interest in vaccine availability

One of the top emerging vaccine-related search queries in the US in the past day was “CDC Vaccine Finder,” a new online tool that was launched by the federal government and partnering organizations to help people find a vaccine in their area. While the site currently only offers limited information, it’s expected to expand its reach in the coming weeks.

Keenan Chen, February 26

Online narratives

A misleading narrative about Covid-19 vaccines and mammograms

A report from Salt Lake City’s Fox 13 about Covid-19 vaccines causing potential false positives during mammograms is being used out of context to argue that these vaccines may be causing breast cancer in recipients. The article was shared widely on Facebook Pages such as Heidi St. John’s “The Busy Mom,” “Health Freedom Minnesota” and elsewhere. The Fox 13 reporting recommends patients receive a mammogram before being vaccinated or to alert doctors if they have received a Covid-19 vaccine. No connection between the Covid-19 vaccines and breast cancer was made in the original article.

Image: Subconsci Productions/Creative Commons

Jaime Longoria, February 26

Twitter list

Canada’s vaccine rollout

Canadian regulators have approved the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, which could accelerate what some have called a slow immunization rollout. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been a notable target of conspiracy theories about a “great reset,” unfounded theories in which Covid-19 vaccines figure heavily. Use this list for verified updates on the coronavirus in Canada.

Chris Looft, February 26

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Top news articles

The news articles in English that mention “vaccine,” “vaccines” or “vaccination” with the most interactions (likes, shares and comments) on Facebook and Twitter in the last 24 hours. Predicted interactions are for the next 24 hours. Sometimes a story with the same headline might appear twice, but this will be two separate publications. (Source: NewsWhip)

Trending narratives and events

Reports that UK Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove is to lead a government review of domestic vaccine certificates have sparked conspiracy theory and civil liberties narratives on social media.

As #VaccinePassports trended on Twitter in the UK, several users claimed civil liberties were being limited and that conspiracy theories were becoming true. 

“Bernie’s Tweets,” an account with more than 40,000 followers, posted, “We were told this wasn’t happening, when we all knew it was.” The post got at least 550 retweets. 

Similarly, user Kelly Martin, who has 11,600 followers and promotes Gab and Telegram accounts, said: “And conspiracy becomes truth… as per usual!” Another Twitter user shared an old clip of Gove saying vaccine passports won’t be introduced for pubs, writing: “Share far and wide.” The clip has been viewed more than 7,600 times.

Lydia Morrish, February 23

“Vaccine passports”

Misinformation that proof of vaccination against Covid-19 will be required for people to enter pubs and venues in the UK. is spreading alongside narratives around creeping totalitarianism.

While “vaccine passports” might become “inevitable” for international travel, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this week, he also ruled out domestic vaccine identification. However, social media accounts are suggesting without evidence that proof of vaccination will be required for daily activities once lockdown is lifted. Some falsely suggested vaccines would de facto be made compulsory through the rollout of “vaccine passports.” 

In France, discussions about “vaccine passports” are fueling similar misleading claims. Silvano Trotta, a prominent YouTube personality who regularly shares conspiracy theories about the pandemic, said in one tweet that the passport will be a precursor to microchips.

Lydia Morrish, Bethan John; February 17

Reactions to Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine side effects in France

A hospital in northwestern France temporarily halted its vaccination of healthcare workers because of the prevalence of flu-like side effects. A specialist said that the workers’ median age — 34 — meant their bodies produced a stronger immune response than in older individuals. The news is fueling confusion and misinformation online, with several high-engagement posts raising alarm about the vaccine and potential side effects without context.

The National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products said the side effects were not abnormal and the vaccination rollout at the hospital would continue today.

Bethan John, February 15

UK government data on vaccine side effects fuels misleading claims

Anti-lockdown and conspiracy theory-spouting accounts are citing UK government data, including five reports of blindness following Covid-19 vaccination, to spread misleading claims. Simon Dolan, founder of anti-lockdown campaign Keep Britain Free, quoted a misleading article on a website that frequently shares health misinformation. It alleged that people were “now blind.” Dolan’s tweet was shared more than 1,070 times on Facebook, CrowdTangle data shows. The “overwhelming majority” of these “Yellow Card” reports — submitted by members of the public or health professionals and which are not always confirmed — relate to injection-site reactions and generalized symptoms. The data also does not indicate the length and severity of the effects.

— Lydia Morrish, February 15

Side effects fuel vaccine hesitancy

A photo posted in a local community Facebook Group in the UK featuring a person who claimed to have developed a rash after receiving the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine is circulating in conspiracy theory channels on Telegram and on Twitter, promoting vaccine hesitancy. “25 hrs after getting Pfizer vaccine,” said one unverified Twitter user in a post that received over 4,000 shares. “[no] way I’m being vaccinated.” The image was also posted by other users on the platform. On Telegram, a screenshot of the Facebook post was seen by over 174,000 subscribers in a QAnon-related channel.

Jaime Longoria, February 10

Door-to-door Covid-19 testing in the UK

A UK government door-to-door Covid-19 testing program to understand and track the spread of the South African coronavirus variant has prompted conspiracy theories and accusations of a “police state” from social media users. The government advised tens of thousands who are expected to receive doorstep PCR tests in eight areas of England to stay home and avoid food shopping as part of the “surge testing” plan. Although dozens of these social media posts have limited engagement so far, they feed into familiar misleading narratives. One Twitter user supporting the anti-lockdown Keep Britain Free (KBF) movement suggested authorities are purposely introducing “1 variant after the other” in order to keep people at home. The post received at least 288 retweets. Other users claimed the test centers that are part of the home testing effort are “fake” or the mutation is being spread as a biochemical weapon.

Meanwhile, other anti-lockdown users allege the government will “lock” people in their homes for any new variant, falsely claiming more than 99% of people are unaffected by the virus and “this is all about a virus nobody has ever seen.” One conspiracy theory account likened doorstep testing to George Orwell’s “1984,” writing: “The dictators know no bounds.”

— Lydia Morrish, February 4

China busts a fake Covid-19 vaccine operation

More than 80 people were arrested in Beijing, Jiangsu and Shandong in a crackdown on fake Covid-19 vaccines, with 3,000-plus fake doses seized in a series of police raids, the People’s Daily reported. The Ministry of Public Security said a large operation to manufacture and sell counterfeit Covid-19 vaccines had been running since September. All fake doses have reportedly been tracked down. A CCTV News story about the fake Covid-19 vaccines posted on Weibo attracted more than 17,000 comments. Studies have shown that vaccine hesitancy increased in China following the distribution of a faulty rabies vaccine in 2018 and coverage of the story on Weibo.

— APAC bureau, February 2

Misinformation around ‘lost’ Covid-19 vaccines

A number of right-leaning political commentators and outlets are advancing a misleading narrative about the Biden administration’s Covid-19 vaccine efforts, following a report detailing the challenges inherited by the new White House staff. An article by three Politico reporters, published Saturday, revealed that the new administration “is still trying to get a firm grasp” on the location of over 20 million doses purchased by the Trump administration and delivered to state governments. “That’s a dilemma that predated the Biden team’s arrival,” the reporters noted. Omitting that context, Turning Point Action co-founder Ryan Fournier posted a tweet in reference to the story that read, “The Biden Administration lost 20 million COVID vaccines… This entire administration is a joke.” These false claims were also advanced by people such as Donald Trump Jr. in a tweet shared over 3,800 times and in an article by Canadian conservative site The Post Millennial. With a recent study estimating that over a third of Americans are unlikely or hesitant to take a vaccine, false claims about vaccination efforts could have consequences that stretch beyond electoral politics.

Chris Looft, February 1

Claims that lockdown causes more Covid-19 transmission

Didier Raoult, a prominent French doctor known for promoting false claims about hydroxychloroquine as a Covid-19 treatment, said that “you don’t catch Covid-19 in the street, but in lockdown at your home” in an interview that has garnered at least 793,200 views on YouTube. The comments are fueling widely shared claims that lockdown restrictions are useless. Although transmission indoors is far more likely than outdoors, lockdowns have been shown to reduce transmission. One study from France’s Pasteur Institute in April found that the national lockdown during the first wave reduced transmission rates by 84%.

Bethan John, February 1

Gain mastery over misinformation

Our flexible learning course will keep you one step ahead of those spreading conspiracies and false claims about vaccines.

The program is designed and run by First Draft’s highly experienced team, working on the frontline in the fight against misinformation. You can join as many online workshops as you wish. They’re free, easy to access, and only take 30 minutes. 

With the ability to build your own syllabus, live interpretation in your language and on-demand lesson recaps, this highly customizable course is designed for busy schedules and varied levels of knowledge and experience. Register below to build a new set of razor sharp skills and become an expert in search, monitoring, verification and more.

 

The course is available in nine languages and across three time zones: 

Tuesdays: AEDT (English, Mandarin and Hindi). 

Wednesdays: GMT (English, French, Arabic, Italian and German).

Thursdays: ET (English, Spanish, and Portuguese).

 

Download the full schedule

You can download an interactive PDF with the full list of sessions.

How to search online

Tips and tricks for better searching, including using boolean queries and smarter keywords.

Tues March 2, 3 PM AEDT | Register →

Wed March 3, 1 PM GMT | Register →

Thurs March 4, 12 PM ET | Register →

Recap and Q&A session 1

Misinformation narratives and smarter searching, plus case studies to help you apply the lessons from the previous sessions.

Fri March 5, 3 PM AEDT | Register →

Fri March 5, 1 PM GMT | Register →

Fri March 5, 12 PM ET | Register →

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Insights on vaccine hesitancy

Insights about vaccine hesitancy and misinformation to inform your reporting, campaigns and responses online.

 

Insights on vaccine hesitancy

The role of structural racism

The historical treatment of communities of color by medical institutions is critical to understanding vaccine hesitancy. Many have experienced discrimination in access to medical care, having their ailments taken seriously and addressed, and as in the case of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, some communities have experienced medical experimentation by the state.

These injustices are often exploited by disinformation campaigns, which play into anxieties about communities of color being treated as test cases. First Draft’s Claire Wardle and internet researcher Renée DiResta also note that “the black community has been targeted with the conspiracy theory that young black males are disproportionately vulnerable to autism if they receive the MMR vaccine.”

In a compelling personal account, an epidemiologist explains how structural racism has made her question immunization programs despite her expertise.

Vaccine hesitancy across countries

Ipsos Mori has released its latest findings in a public poll on vaccine intent. Every country measured has seen an increase in people’s intent to get vaccinated. Learn more in its report.

The percentage of respondents who agree with the statement, “If a vaccine for Covid-19 were available, I would get it.” Source: Ipsos Mori, Jan 2021

The psychology of vaccine hesitancy

A study across 24 countries found vaccine hesitancy was highest among those who:

  • embraced conspiratorial thinking
  • had reactance against authority
  • reported disgust toward blood and needles
  • had strong individualistic or hierarchical worldviews

These findings indicate communication tactics that may backfire and increase hesitancy among many, such as imagery of syringes and authoritative messages. The moral values of “purity” and “liberty” have also been linked with anti-vaccination views, indicating that vaccine hesitancy isn’t just about facts.

The 3 C’s

The World Health Organization uses a “3 C’s model” to explain vaccine hesitancy:

Confidence: lack of trust in the effectiveness and safety of vaccines, the system and people delivering them, and the motivations of policy makers

Convenience: when vaccines are seen as taking too much effort to access

Complacency: when vaccines are considered unnecessary

A (very) brief introduction to vaccine hesitancy

Opposition to vaccination can be traced to the very introduction of vaccines, such as the 1866 founding in Britain of the National Anti-Vaccination League, culminating in an 1885 protest that reportedly attracted up to 100,000 people. Hesitancy is informed by personal experiences, trust, religious and moral convictions, perceptions of risk and misinformation. Today, vaccine hesitancy is a spectrum characterized by professor Julie Leask as a five-layer pyramid of acceptance:

  1. the “refuser” of all vaccines (<2%)
  2. the “late or selective vaccinator” (2–27%)
  3. the “hesitant” (20–30%)
  4. the “cautious acceptor” (25–35%)
  5. the “unquestioning acceptor” (30–40%)

The role of motherhood

Before the pandemic, anti-vaccine communities were mainly focused on women, particularly new mothers.

One study found that 89% of people posting anti-vaccine comments online were women. Another found that “anti-vaccination pages on Facebook reflect a highly ‘feminized’ movement,” with 73% of active members being women. Researchers concluded that the contemporary anti-vaccine movement is “now, more than ever, ‘a mother’s question.’”

Insights on vaccine misinformation

Facts vs. identities

Vaccine hesitancy is affected by misinformation, but also by identity and values. 

In English-language communities, the value of civil liberties is particularly important: One study finds that followers of anti-vaccine Facebook Pages articulate their views in terms of anti-authoritarian values and freedom. A study of anti-vaccine content on Facebook reached a similar conclusion, with the authors arguing that that “[f]raming vaccine refusal as a civil right [issue] allows vaccine opponents to sidestep the science, and instead debate about values, especially the value of freedom of choice.”

Consider how these values can be engaged with and challenged; for example, by reconsidering freedom at the level of the community rather than the individual.

6 types of vaccine narratives

Narratives are powerful in shaping attitudes and behaviors and when it comes to vaccines, narratives can be broken down into six main types. Read more in Under The Surface.

Political & economic motives: Trust in the political and economic motives of key figures, governments, institutions and corporations involved with vaccines. 

Safety, efficacy & necessity: Whether vaccines are perceived to be safe, effective or needed.

Development, provision & access: The progress and challenges of vaccine development, including trials as well as who takes part, when and how.

Conspiracy theory: Well-established or novel conspiracy theories involving vaccines.

Liberty & freedom: How vaccines are perceived to affect civil liberties and personal freedom.

Morality & religion: Moral and religious concerns around vaccines, such as their composition and how they are tested.

Why data deficits are so important

The Royal Society and the British Academy concluded in a review of the literature on vaccine misinformation that vaccine hesitancy “is not the result of misinformation, but rather an information and knowledge deficit.”

Deficits are created when people are seeking credible information but not finding it. Sometimes this is because of unanswered questions, which create a vacuum for information, and that’s when misinformation rushes in and is prioritized in search results.

In your research, look for sincere questions and niche terms that provoke uncertainty, then address them with clear reporting information.

How to debunk health misinformation

When a falsehood is spreading among your audience, it’s important to debunk it. A joint report by Full Fact, Chequeado and AfricaCheck offers several recommendations:

  1. Don’t give bad information more exposure
  2. Avoid inducing fear
  3. Remember that many vaccine-hesitant individuals hate needles
  4. Emphasize “high safety” instead of “low risk”
  5. Avoid imagery of syringes, blood, sharp objects
  6. Target the general public, not vocal vaccine deniers

 

Guidance on reporting

Expert guidance to inform your reporting on vaccine misinformation.

 

Vaccine misinformation challenges in 2021

How can we prevent harm when reporting on vaccine misinformation?

Dr. Claire Wardle (First Draft), Dr. Glen Nowak (University of Georgia’s Center for Health and Risk Communication), Ifeoma Ozoma (Earthseed), and Jen Schwartz (Scientific American) discuss challenges of reporting on vaccine misinformation in 2021.

Mésinformation autour des vaccins en 2021

Comment éviter des effets nuisibles lorsque nous couvrons les mésinformations autour des vaccins?

Julie Charpentrat (AFP), Leonardo Heyerdahl (Institut Pasteur), Seb Cubbon (First Draft) et Marie Bohner (First Draft) abordent les défis liés au reportage sur les mésinformations autour des vaccins en 2021.

 

Misinformación sobre vacunas en 2021

 ¿Cómo prevenir el daño de amplificar la desinformación sobre las vacunas?

Elodie Martinez (AFP), Rory Smith (First Draft) y Jaime Longoria (First Draft) discuten los retos que enfrentan los periodistas al cubrir la desinformación sobre las vacunas en 2021.