Hoffman says scientists and vaccination proponents need to get better at engaging on social media to combat vaccine misinformation


INSIDER – As the coronavirus continues to spread across the world and shut down public events and gatherings, vaccine critics relying on junk science are already protesting a coronavirus vaccine. A recent study published in the journal Nature looked at pro- and anti-vaccination Facebook posts in 2019, and found the anti-vaxxers engaged more frequently with people whose ideologies appeared to be on the fence on vaccines. Experts say that scientists and vaccination proponents need to get better at engaging on social media to combat vaccine misinformation. 

Beth Hoffman (BCHS '19, '23), a doctoral student and research assistant at Pitt's Center for Behavioral Health, Media and Technology, tells Insider that her research has also shown that anti-vaxx content seems to spread in many places people wouldn't expect.

"Anti-vaccine misinformation appears to spread through a variety of channels," Hoffman says. "I think in the last year or so, as we've seen the anti-vaccine movement grow on social media, the importance of public health and medical professionals being on social media and reaching people through social media has become increasingly clear."

Hoffman says she was happy to see National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci and other public health officials taking over popular celebrities' Instagram accounts to spread accurate information about the pandemic to a wider audience recently, and she says she'd like to see more public health officials and scientists finding creative ways to get information out. She says the anti-vaxxers are spreading their conspiracy theories now, so scientists shouldn't wait until the COVID-19 vaccine is ready to start sharing accurate information about vaccines.

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From A map of anti-vaxxer Facebook users shows how they're better targeting neutral parties in the dangerous war against vaccine supporters on social media, according to a new study, by Thor Benson/ INSIDER, May 29, 2020


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