According to a study, researchers have found that people who rely on social media for information were most likely to be misinformed than people who rely on traditional outlets.
The study which was based on 2,500 US adults found that at least 20 percent of the respondents were misinformed about vaccinations. The researchers said that the high levels of misinformation based on the nationally representative survey was worrying because it undermines the vaccination rate that is required to maintain the community immunity.
"People who received their information from traditional media were less likely to endorse anti-common vaccination claims," said study lead author Dominik Stecula from the University of Pennsylvania in the US.
Measles outbreak in the US
The findings, published in the Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review, was conducted in the spring and fall of 2019 when the US experienced its largest measles outbreak in a quarter-century.
Between the two survey periods, 19 percent of the respondents' levels of vaccine misinformation changed in a substantive way - and within that group, almost two-thirds (64 percent) were more misinformed in the fall than in the spring. The researchers found that 18 percent of respondents mistakenly said that it is very or somewhat accurate to state that vaccines cause autism; 15 percent mistakenly agreed that it is very or somewhat accurate to state that vaccines are full of toxins.
The researchers also found that an individual's level of trust in medical experts affects the likelihood that a person's beliefs about vaccination will change. Low levels of trust in medical experts coincide with believing vaccine misinformation, the researchers said.
The findings come as a number of states have been debating whether to tighten their laws surrounding vaccination exemptions and social media companies have been wrestling with how to respond to different forms of misinformation.
The result is consistent with research suggesting that social media contain a fair amount of misinformation about vaccination while traditional media are more likely to reflect the scientific consensus on its benefits and safety, according to the researchers.
(With inputs from agency)