Background: Open online forums like Reddit provide an opportunity to quantitatively examine COVID-19 vaccine perceptions early in the vaccine timeline. We examine COVID-19 misinformation on Reddit following vaccine scientific announcements, in the initial phases of the vaccine timeline. Methods: We collected all posts on Reddit (reddit.com) from January 1 2020 - December 14 2020 (n=266,840) that contained both COVID-19 and vaccine-related keywords. We used topic modeling to understand changes in word prevalence within topics after the release of vaccine trial data. Social network analysis was also conducted to determine the relationship between Reddit communities (subreddits) that shared COVID-19 vaccine posts, and the movement of posts between subreddits. Results: There was an association between a Pfizer press release reporting 90% efficacy and increased discussion on vaccine misinformation. We observed an association between Johnson and Johnson temporarily halting its vaccine trials and reduced misinformation. We found that information skeptical of vaccination was first posted in a subreddit (r/Coronavirus) which favored accurate information and then reposted in subreddits associated with antivaccine beliefs and conspiracy theories (e.g. conspiracy, NoNewNormal). Conclusions: Our findings can inform the development of interventions where individuals determine the accuracy of vaccine information, and communications campaigns to improve COVID-19 vaccine perceptions, early in the vaccine timeline. Such efforts can increase individual- and population-level awareness of accurate and scientifically sound information regarding vaccines and thereby improve attitudes about vaccines, especially in the early phases of vaccine roll-out. Further research is needed to understand how social media can contribute to COVID-19 vaccination services.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health