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Project Overview

​Vaccine posts have spread via social media for more than a decade, and a surge of anti-vaccine activities on social media has been detected during prior disease outbreaks. Nonetheless, how this debate changes and impacts the uptake rates for crucial vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic remains unknown.

The long-term goal is to counteract the negative impact of misinformation on digital platforms that threatens public health. The overall objectives of this project are to develop a publicly accessible vaccine misinformation portal to track vaccine posts and to test their impact on COVID-19, flu, and HPV immunization rates during the onset of/in the aftermath of a global pandemic. The central hypothesis is that vaccine debate will increase and become more negative during the pandemic, leading to lower vaccine uptake rates. The rationale for this project is that discovering how vaccine posts change and influence vaccine uptake rates during a pandemic will be critically important for managing and preventing disease spread in any future pandemic. The central hypothesis will be tested by pursuing two specific aims:

Specific Aim 1) Develop a vaccine misinformation portal to identify the frequency and valence of vaccine debate during and following the pandemic compared to the pre-pandemic baseline;
Specific Aim 2) Apply this system to identify the causal impact of vaccine posts on immunization rates during the pandemic. 

This research is innovative because it proposes a robust co-teaching framework for addressing potentially noisy human annotations of vaccine posts. It also proposes a statistical modeling technique that involves heterogenous metrics obtained from a multi-method approach for hypothesis testing. These innovations are timely and urgent as the current time presents a rare opportunity to identify the impact of vaccine debate on public health during the onset of a global pandemic. The proposed research is significant because it will produce a public barometer of vaccine debate and provide a methodological breakthrough in uncovering the reasoning behind vaccine-refusals.    

The expected outcomes will vertically advance knowledge about effective data management and vaccine-refusal increases during public health crises. This will enable public health officials to focus their intervention efforts on those who are at risk of delaying or refusing crucial vaccines during a pandemic, thereby reducing healthcare costs for managing epidemics and decreasing morbidity.

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Project Award Information

  • Funding agency: National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health

  • NIH Award Number: 1R21LM013638-01

  • Funding Period: August 1, 2021 - July 31, 2023

  • Funding Amount: $348,310

  • Federal Award Project Title: Development of a vaccine informatics system and its application to identifying the impact of vaccine debate on immunization rates during a global pandemic

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