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IN Researchers Track COVID Vaccine Uptake, Online Misinformation

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Friday, March 5, 2021   

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana has a somewhat high rate of COVID vaccine refusal, and researchers are investigating whether false information online is planting seeds of doubt.

Indiana University's Observatory on Social Media has an online dashboard, called CoVaxxy, which tracks daily data on vaccine uptake.

It also tracks posts on social media that include certain vaccine-related keywords.

John Bryden, executive director for the Observatory, said there are some wild theories about the safety of the vaccine and its availability.

"And I know from personal experience, you only need to see one message and immediately, you have doubt," Bryden explained. "I had to go and actually check the facts myself to reassure myself."

The latest dashboard data indicate a 35% rate of vaccine hesitancy in Indiana, compared to a high of 45% in North Dakota and a low of 16% in Massachusetts.

So far, 9% of Indiana's population has been fully vaccinated, which is a higher percentage than in bordering states.

CoVaxxy is interactive and includes information on the most-shared low- and high-credibility sources, hashtag use, geography and political affiliation.

Bryden noted two trends emerging from what they've collected so far.

"There's a strong relationship between more Republican states being more hesitant to take the vaccine," Bryden observed. "But we're also getting a sense that the states that are spreading more misinformation, even Democrat ones, are actually more hesitant as well."

Indiana just extended its vaccine distribution to include anyone age 50 and older, and teachers of all ages.

The state has used 80% of vaccines it has received for distribution.


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