Health professionals can counter COVID-19 vaccine misinformation by taking to social media

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According to a new study, trusted healthcare providers can use social media platforms to encourage fact-based dialogue to tackle vaccine hesitancy.

Although healthcare workers are among the most trusted messengers of COVID-19 vaccine information — indeed, nurses have been ranked as the most trusted profession for 20 years — many fail to leverage that trust on social networks to encourage vaccination, says a first of his – a benevolent study by scientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health.

The study examines the motivations and hesitations of healthcare workers and how they are shared on social networks. While the first round of COVID vaccines were being developed and approved by the FDA, opinion on their effectiveness was mixed by both the public and some healthcare workers.

According to the findings of the study, published in the Community Health Journal.

“In the survey, healthcare workers gave us really compelling and heartwarming reasons why they got vaccinated, but we haven’t seen a lot of that data on social media,” the author said. Principal Beth Hoffman, PhD, MPH. “It shows the importance of not only healthcare workers sharing their stories, but also providing them with support to do so. It’s not enough to say, “You should share your story. We need to provide training on how they can do this.

“A lot of people are turning to social media for information,” Hoffman said. Healthcare Leaders. “As we have seen with COVID-19, the absence of reliable and trustworthy information from healthcare workers on these platforms creates a void that can be filled by those who spread misinformation and disinformation. anti-vaccine.”

Hoffman, postdoctoral associate in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences at Pitt Public Health, and lead author Jaime Sidani, PhD, MPH, CHES, collaborated with scientists from the Department of Psychiatry at Pitt’s School of Medicine to probe healthcare workers at UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital on COVID-19 vaccinations.

For their study, they defined a healthcare worker as anyone working in the hospital caring for patients, from providers to cafeteria staff and security personnel. The survey results were particularly insightful since the patients the hospital serves are often stigmatized, said co-author Antoine Douaihy, MD.

“The COVID-19 vaccination rate among our patients is low due to historical and cultural issues that prevent people from accepting the vaccine,” he said in a statement. “Knowing more about the motivations of healthcare workers who interact with them can teach us how to connect and build trust with patients.”

“Freedom” a powerful motivator

The 511 responses were recorded from April to June 2021, with 93.2% reporting having received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. A third of respondents in this group said they talked about it on social media.

In social media analysis and surveys of healthcare workers, researchers have identified “freedom” as a powerful motivational theme, suggesting that emphasizing “the absence of fear” once vaccinated could be effective in reducing vaccine hesitancy.

Addressing misinformation related to reproductive health and vaccination, as well as making vaccination clinics accessible and convenient, are other insights scientists have drawn from the research.

From a random sample of nearly 2,300 tweets about the COVID-19 vaccine, the research team found that 1,863 were posted by individuals, 6% of which were written by people who identified themselves. such as a healthcare worker or a health science student. Some 95% of tweets were positive or neutral in their testimonial, but only 14% included a personal story.

“Social media is where patients spend a lot of time and see a lot of health information,” Hoffman said. “So in addition to talking to patients face-to-face, healthcare workers can use social media to share their reasons for getting vaccinated and communicate about other important health issues.”

COVID-19 has shown providers the value of using social media for health communication, Hoffman said, and she believes they will continue to use it for other health topics in the future.

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