Background: Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, a variety of COVID-19-related misinformation has spread and been amplified online. The spread of misinformation can influence COVID-19 beliefs and protective actions, including vaccine hesitancy. Belief in vaccine misinformation is associated with lower vaccination rates and higher vaccine resistance. Attitudinal inoculation is a preventative approach to combating misinformation and disinformation, which leverages the power of narrative, rhetoric, values, and emotion.
Objective: This study seeks to test inoculation messages in the form of short video messages to promote resistance against persuasion by COVID-19 vaccine misinformation.
Methods: We designed a series of 30-second inoculation videos and conducted a quasi-experimental study to test the use of attitudinal inoculation in a population of individuals who were unvaccinated (N=1991). The 3 intervention videos were distinguished by their script design, with intervention video 1 focusing on narrative/rhetorical ("Narrative") presentation of information, intervention video 2 focusing on delivering a fact-based information ("Fact"), and intervention video 3 using a hybrid design ("Hybrid"). Analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) models were used to compare the main effect of the intervention on the 3 outcome variables: ability to recognize misinformation tactics ("Recognize"), willingness to share misinformation ("Share"), and willingness to take the COVID-19 vaccine ("Willingness").
Results: There were significant effects across all 3 outcome variables comparing inoculation intervention groups to controls. For the Recognize outcome, the ability to recognize rhetorical strategies, there was a significant intervention group effect (P<.001). For the Share outcome, support for sharing the mis- and disinformation, the intervention group main effect was statistically significant (P=.02). For the Willingness outcome, there was a significant intervention group effect; intervention groups were more willing to get the COVID-19 vaccine compared to controls (P=.01).
Conclusions: Across all intervention groups, inoculated individuals showed greater resistance to misinformation than their noninoculated counterparts. Relative to those who were not inoculated, inoculated participants showed significantly greater ability to recognize and identify rhetorical strategies used in misinformation, were less likely to share false information, and had greater willingness to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Attitudinal inoculation delivered through short video messages should be tested in public health messaging campaigns to counter mis- and disinformation.
Keywords: COVID-19; COVID-19 vaccine; attitudinal inoculation; health intervention; infodemiology; intervention; misinformation; public health; vaccination; vaccine; vaccine hesitancy; vaccine misinformation.
©Rachael Piltch-Loeb, Max Su, Brian Hughes, Marcia Testa, Beth Goldberg, Kurt Braddock, Cynthia Miller-Idriss, Vanessa Maturo, Elena Savoia. Originally published in JMIR Public Health and Surveillance (https://publichealth.jmir.org), 20.06.2022.