TORONTO, Jan. 20, 2021—Ontario’s doctors voiced concern today about the urgent need to combat misinformation spreading on social media that may discourage people from getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
Doubts and misinformation about how thoroughly the vaccines were tested or the extent of side effects are being shared widely on social media, especially among people under 25 and those between 25 and 34, according to new data released by the OMA.
The OMA plans a media briefing at 12:30 today to counter those myths and fears and turn vaccine hesitancy into vaccine confidence.
“We, as doctors, want to do everything we can to address every patient’s concerns,” said OMA President Dr. Samantha Hill, speaking on behalf of the province’s 43,000 physicians, including those working on the front lines of the pandemic.
“If you have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, or any other health issue, ask trusted sources such as doctors who have the facts to turn vaccine hesitancy into vaccine confidence. This report helps us better understand where some of the fear and hesitancy is coming from so we are better able to respond.”
According to data collected by Advanced Symbolic Inc., misinformation about the COVID vaccine is spreading among all age groups in Ontario on social media. ASI uses artificial intelligence methodology to build a representative sample of Ontarians from publicly available social media information and obtain insights into public discussions about vaccine hesitancy.
Vaccine misinformation by age groups:
Under 25: Misinformation within this group includes strong doubts about the vaccine on social media, emphasizing they believe it is dangerous, “untested” and “largely experimental.” They speak, almost aggressively, about “it’s not your business whether I get the vaccine.” Those in this age group who are more open and accepting of the vaccine still have negative views about following government measures and advice aimed at curbing the pandemic, saying if the do so, they will be considered low risk and have to wait longer to get a vaccine than people at high risk.
Ages 25-34: More conspiracy theories are seen in this age group, in particular the belief that COVID is a genetically engineered virus so no vaccine can be trusted. This group is outspoken about refusing to have any “mandatory health tag” to prove they have been vaccinated. They want to make sure human rights are supported during the pandemic and question employers’ abilities to force employees to get the vaccine.
Ages 35-44: This group is more supportive of a vaccine and is circulating less misinformation. But they are unhappy with the way the government rolled out the vaccines, especially the shutdown over the holidays and want the government to speed things up. This age group is talking a lot about vaccine safety and the need for public health campaigns that address vaccine hesitancy. Specifically, they are seeking more information about the effect of the vaccine during pregnancy.
Ages 45-65: This age group is using social media to voice their opinions about government actions. Many are frustrated at the slow roll out of the vaccine and want clarification about where the vaccines have gone and more transparency about the next steps.
“Ontario’s doctors are committed to helping everyone make an informed decision by providing accurate, evidence-based facts,” said OMA CEO Allan O’Dette. “The facts will help us all make the right decision for ourselves, our families and our communities.”
The OMA has been active in combatting misinformation online about topics such as vaccination since 2019. Get more factual answers to COVID vaccine questions.
ASI report (PDF)
OMA Vaccine Confidence (YouTube)
The Ontario Medical Association represents Ontario’s 43,000-plus physicians, medical students and retired physicians, advocating for and supporting doctors while strengthening the leadership role of doctors in caring for patients. Our vision is to be the trusted voice in transforming Ontario’s health-care system.
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