Researchers: Social media still playing big role in vaccine hesitancy in Hawaii

Researchers with the the Pacific Alliance Against COVID found that unvaccinated people use social media more frequently to shape their views on the shots.
Published: Nov. 4, 2021 at 5:43 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 4, 2021 at 5:50 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Researchers say that social media is playing a significant role in vaccine hesitancy in Hawaii.

Since December, the Pacific Alliance Against COVID has gone to Hawaii schools and community groups where they surveyed about 3,000 people about their attitudes toward the COVID vaccine.

Compared to vaccinated people ― who are more likely to trust the government and the news about the vaccine ― the alliance found that unvaccinated people use social media and other unofficial sources more frequently to shape their views on the shots.

“Unvaccinated people consume 11% more information from friends and family and 12% more information coming from social media,” said Ruben Juarez, an economist with the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization and a leader with the alliance.

As of Thursday, 71.5% of Hawaii’s residents were fully vaccinated. Among those 12 and up, the percentage is nearly 84%.

The state Health Department says less than 5% of the population 12 and up hasn’t initiated vaccination.

Juarez believes misinformation spread on social media helped fuel the surge of the Delta virus, which mostly infected the unvaccinated.

Some political scientists fault social media for the way it processes and disseminates information about the vaccine.

“It ... gives people the false impression that some of these ideas are legitimate or that a lot more people hold these ideas than really do. It would be normalizing what would otherwise be pretty extreme positions,” said University of Hawaii Political Science Professor Colin Moore.

Recently, Facebook has come under fire for allowing anti-vaccine, hate speech and other extremist views to flourish on its platform.

“The critics would say they haven’t done a good enough job of policing those comments and removing them because that’s part of their business model,” Moore said.

Juarez said his group is working on a larger study which will look at how to build more vaccine acceptance in the unvaccinated community.

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