How to Address COVID-19 Vaccine Misinformation
The spread of misinformation on social media and through other channels can affect COVID-19 vaccine confidence.
Misinformation often arises when there are information gaps or unsettled science, as human nature seeks to reason, better understand, and fill in the gaps.
On this page, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shares strategies for communicating accurate information about COVID-19 vaccines, responding to gaps in information, and confronting misinformation with evidence-based messaging from credible sources.
- Misinformation is false information shared by people who do not intend to mislead others.
- Disinformation is false information deliberately created and disseminated with malicious intent.
Both types can affect vaccine confidence and vaccination rates. Most misinformation and disinformation that has circulated about COVID-19 vaccines has focused on vaccine development, safety, and effectiveness, as well as COVID-19 denialism.
The first step to addressing misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines in your community is learning more about it, including where it starts and when, why, and how it is spreading and evolving.
Strategies for addressing COVID-19 vaccine misinformation in your community:
Download CDC’s Rapid Community Assessment Guide for steps and adaptable tools to quickly gather information and better understand your community of focus.
- Listen to and analyze misinformation circulating in your community through social and traditional media monitoring. This can include monitoring social media channels and traditional media outlets for misinformation and creating a log of that misinformation to identify trends in your area. This can help you understand where, when, why, and how misinformation is spreading in your community.
- Engage with and listen to your community to identify and analyze perceptions, content gaps, information voids, and misinformation.
- Share accurate, clear, and easy-to-find information that addresses common questions. This can be done through your website, social media, and other places your audience looks for health information. Also use methods to reach those with limited or no internet access, such as radio or community events. Share details, including addresses and hours, about local vaccination sites and events with community-based organizations and local media. See How to Tailor COVID-19 Information to Your Specific Audience.
- Use trusted messengers to boost credibility and the likelihood of being seen and believed over misinformation. Some people may not trust public health professionals or visit the health department website, so it’s more effective to reach them through the channels and sources they look to and trust for health information, such as religious leaders or community organizations.
How to effectively address misinformation:
Below is an example of how to address misinformation following the above guidance:
FACT: The COVID-19 vaccine will not make you sick with COVID-19.
WARNING: Misinformation alert!
FALLACY: Some people are saying that the COVID-19 vaccine will give you COVID-19. That is not true. While you may feel sick after getting the COVID-19 vaccine, that is a sign your body is building protection against the virus that causes COVID-19.
FACT: The COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19. COVID-19 vaccines teach your immune system to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. Sometimes this process can cause symptoms, such as fever and chills. These symptoms are normal and are signs that the body is building protection against the virus that causes COVID-19.
Monitoring misinformation through social listening is a key strategy to quickly identify and address misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines. This includes identifying trending inaccurate information, which, if not addressed, can lead to the spread of misinformation.
Catching misinformation early can help you develop and get out accurate information to address concerns and questions ahead of time and close information gaps before they are filled with inaccurate information.
How to conduct effective social listening and media monitoring and help prevent the spread of misinformation:
- Identify your jurisdiction’s existing information sources that will inform listening, such as analysis of social media comments, call center logs, and media inquiry logs. Check tools regularly to gather social listening data.
- Create and maintain a social media influencer list to monitor for perceptions, content gaps, and misinformation.
- Create and maintain a rumor log to track circulating misinformation, its volume, how it is spreading, and how it evolves over time.
- Set up a social and traditional media monitoring system to access key channels, communities, and conversations, including free monitoring and analytical tools.
- Analyze and develop insights by considering the following questions:
- What questions are people asking about COVID-19 vaccination?
- What are people’s attitudes and emotions that may be linked to vaccination behavior?
- What rumors or misinformation are circulating?
- What overarching themes and narratives—beyond individual pieces of content—emerge from widely circulated rumors and misinformation?
- How are people responding to and interpreting vaccine-related communication from public health authorities?
- Learn how Tennessee’s COVID-19 Health Disparity Task Force built trust to battle misinformation.
- Social Listening and Monitoring Toolspdf icon: Tools embedded within CDC’s Rapid Community Assessment Guide to support social listening and monitoring implementation.
- UNICEF Field Guide on Addressing Misinformationexternal icon: A field guide that includes strategies to address misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines in global contexts.
- How to Detect Misinformationexternal icon: A quick guide by Stronger on detecting misinformation, disinformation, lies, and conspiracy theories about vaccines.
- COVID-19 State of Vaccine Confidence Insights Report: A biweekly report highlighting emerging issues of misinformation, disinformation, places where intervention efforts can positively impact vaccine confidence across the United States, and major themes influencing COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and uptake. To receive this report, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Community Engagement Playbook (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry) – Guidance on what programs/partners could consider as they develop a plan for engaging communities, to include four phases and nine key activities of community engagement.