4 ways misinformation spread during early stages of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Americans are becoming more accepting of COVID-19 vaccines' safety and efficacy as tech platforms and governments pursue new initiatives to fight misinformation and the nation advances in its mass vaccination effort.

Below are four key ways vaccine misinformation was spread and contributed to vaccine hesitancy during the early stages of the U.S. COVID-19 vaccine rollout process. 

  1. A lack of detailed and unified messaging about COVID-19 vaccines' safety and efficacy during and after the FDA's review processes played a critical role in Americans' unwillingness and hesitancy to receive the shots. Recently speaking about Facebook's new efforts to combat COVID-19 vaccine information, the tech giant's head of health, Kang-Xing Jin, said "misinformation really thrives in the absence of credible information."

  2. Tech companies including Facebook, Google and Apple enabled the spread of COVID-19 misinformation through online tools, services and code used by websites that post such content. An Oxford University analysis of 40 COVID-19 disinformation sites found nearly 2,000 tools or bits of code from Google, more than 800 from Facebook, more than 360 from Apple and more than 330 from Amazon.

  3. Researchers from Seattle-based University of Washington found that Amazon's search algorithm pushes books that promote false claims about vaccines to the top of its generated results pages. Books that address and debunk health misinformation appear lower in Amazon's search results, which means they are less likely to be seen by consumers.

  4. Some anti-vaccine groups mined through unverified reports in the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System and presented them without context in order to support their anti-vaccine stance and spread misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines.

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