Francisco Marquez
Francisco Marquez

Misinformation plays a large role in online discussions about COVID vaccines, according to a new study from LLYC.

The firm's Vaccine Conversation Trends Study finds that the most widespread of the myths being spread about the virus is that it alters the DNA of recipients.

LLYC’s study looked at 2M posts published between November 2020 and April 2021 from accounts in the US. Pro-vaccination posts outnumber anti-vaccination posts by a two-to-one margin—440,300 to 219,400—with about half of the posts judged to be neutral.

Scientists and journalists led the online pro-vaccine community, the study found. Journalists, however, were also a major source of anti-vaccine commentary, along with lawyers. Women voicing concerns about the vaccine’s possible side effects during pregnancy also accounted for a sizeable share of the anti-vaccine conversation.

In the Hispanic community, the pro-vaccine forces seem to be gaining steam. The study says that while most Hispanic respondents expressed doubt and fear about the vaccine in a November 2020 survey, by this April, “most of the community had become pro-vaccine.”

LLYC also found that certain states were hot spots for online COVID commentary. California was home to the largest number of COVID vaccine-related posts, accounting for close to 16 percent of the total online conversation. New York, Texas and Florida also had major presences. Those four states also generated 43 percent of the total anti-vaccine conversation, which according to LLYC reveals “an opportunity to focus vaccination education on these areas.”

Unexpectedly, the study says that vaccine laboratories and pharmaceutical companies are not playing a leading role in the online pro-vaccination conversation.

It also reports that some online commenters are having a far larger effect than others. What it calls “power profiles” are leading the conversation, with 40,000 profiles producing 33 percent of all Twitter posts about the COVID vaccine.

“Our findings can help policymakers on the regional and federal levels, as well as interested private parties, create strategies to address the vast amount of vaccine misinformation in our country,” said LLYC DC office director Francisco Marquez.

View the full LLCY vaccine trends study.