Few healthcare workers are using social media to encourage vaccination, study finds

Healthcare workers can use social media to encourage vaccination against COVID-19, but many are not doing so, according to a study published June 8.

The study — led by scientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health — examined COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, acceptance and promotion among healthcare workers, based on survey responses about vaccination and Twitter posts related to vaccination and healthcare. 

For part of the study, researchers evaluated survey responses from 511 healthcare workers at Pittsburgh-based UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital, recorded from April to June 2021.

Among survey respondents, 93.2 percent reported receiving at least one shot, and about one third of vaccinated individuals indicated they posted about getting vaccinated on social media, according to the study. 

At the same time, researchers obtained tweets with vaccine-related keywords using Twitter's application programming interface during a six-month period beginning Dec. 11, 2020. They examined 3,845 tweets, of which 2,299 were relevant to COVID-19 vaccination.

Of the 1,863 tweets that were coded as authored by an individual, 6 percent were authored by a healthcare provider/health sciences student, according to the study. The study found that only 14 percent of tweets coded as authored by a healthcare worker included mention of personal or proximate narrative related to vaccination. 

The researchers noted that healthcare workers may benefit from training and support to become effective vaccine advocates on social media.

"Results suggest that promoting the sharing of COVID-19 vaccine personal narratives on social media, combined with interventions targeting specific reasons for COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and emphasizing freedom from fear once vaccinated could be effective at reducing COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among [healthcare workers]," the study authors concluded. 

The authors said the study limitations include the small sample size of tweets attributable to a healthcare worker or health sciences student, which may mean the results are not indicative of the larger COVID-19 vaccine discussion among healthcare workers on social media. 

  

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