CURE: Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Research: Examining influenza vaccine administrations and popular internet search terms: Vaccine skepticism fueled by misinformation

Examining influenza vaccine administrations and popular internet search terms: Vaccine skepticism fueled by misinformation

CURE: Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Research: Examining influenza vaccine administrations and popular internet search terms: Vaccine skepticism fueled by misinformation

Student Presenters

Alexander Theophilopoulos, Mason Swanick, Rebecca Lopatukhin, Uma Vogeti, Mulan Yin

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Anne Donnelly

College

Center for Undergraduate Research

Abstract

Public misinformation about vaccine safety and efficacy has been named one of the driving forces behind vaccine hesitancy and skepticism. Further, this lack of confidence in vaccines has been shown to dampen the vaccine distribution rate. This study aimed to determine whether a correlation existed between search term frequency and vaccine administration data in order to assess vaccine hesitancy fueled by misinformation in Florida. A linear regression analysis was used to compare vaccine administration with eleven specific Google search terms over nine different flu seasons. The linear regression demonstrated a positive association between certain vaccine search terms, such as “vaccine autism”, and vaccine distribution rates. While other terms yielded no correlation, a general pattern still indicated a relationship between the two variables.The research shows a positive trend between decreased vaccine distribution rates and increased misinformed search term internet traffic in general, and can be used to aid in the detection and identification of misinformation on the internet. These findings hold great implications in the public health field and emphasize the need to increase public awareness of vaccine skepticism in order to effectively manage health crises. Our research is especially relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic with its close relationship to the COVID-19 vaccine, which underlines the urgency of our findings. 

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