Social Media News Use Induces COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy Through Skepticism Regarding Its Efficacy: A Longitudinal Study From the United States.Front Psychol. 2022; 13:900386.FP
There are mounting concerns about the adverse effects of social media on the public understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic and its potential effects on vaccination coverage. Yet early studies have focused on generic social media use and been based on cross-sectional data limiting any causal inferences. This study is among the first to provide causal support for the speculation that social media news use leads to vaccine hesitancy among US citizens. This two-wave survey study was conducted in the US using Qualtrics online panel-based recruitment. We employ mediation and moderated mediation analyses to test our assumptions. The results suggest that using social media to consume news content can translate into vaccine hesitancy by increasing citizens' skepticism regarding the efficacy of vaccines. However, these effects are contingent upon the news literacy of users, as the effects on vaccine hesitancy are more substantial among those with lower news literacy. The current study recommends to public policymakers and vaccine communication strategists that any attempt to reduce vaccine hesitancy in society should factor in the adverse effects of social media news use that can increase vaccine safety concerns.