Conspiracy beliefs and vaccination intent for COVID-19 in an infodemic

PLoS One. 2022 Jan 12;17(1):e0261559. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0261559. eCollection 2022.

Abstract

Background: The massive, free and unrestricted exchange of information on the social media during the Covid-19 pandemic has set fertile grounds for fear, uncertainty and the rise of fake news related to the virus. This "viral" spread of fake news created an "infodemic" that threatened the compliance with public health guidelines and recommendations.

Objective: This study aims to describe the trust in social media platforms and the exposure to fake news about COVID-19 in Lebanon and to explore their association with vaccination intent.

Methods: In this cross-sectional study conducted in Lebanon during July-August, 2020, a random sample of 1052 participants selected from a mobile-phone database responded to an anonymous structured questionnaire after obtaining informed consent (response rate = 40%). The questionnaire was conducted by telephone and measured socio-demographics, sources and trust in sources of information and exposure to fake news, social media activity, perceived threat and vaccination intent.

Results: Results indicated that the majority of participants (82%) believed that COVID-19 is a threat and 52% had intention to vaccinate. Exposure to fake/ unverified news was high (19.7% were often and 63.8% were sometimes exposed, mainly to fake news shared through Watsapp and Facebook). Trust in certain information sources (WHO, MoPH and TV) increased while trust in others (Watsapp, Facebook) reduced vaccination intent against Covid-19. Believing in the man-made theory and the business control theory significantly reduced the likelihood of vaccination intent (Beta = 0.43; p = 0.01 and Beta = -0.29; p = 0.05) respectively.

Conclusion: In the context of the infodemic, understanding the role of exposure to fake news and of conspiracy believes in shaping healthy behavior is important for increasing vaccination intent and planning adequate response to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control
  • COVID-19 / virology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disinformation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infodemic*
  • Lebanon
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics
  • Public Health
  • SARS-CoV-2 / isolation & purification
  • Social Media
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Trust
  • Vaccination / psychology*
  • Young Adult

Grants and funding

The author(s) received no specific funding for this work.