RESEARCHERS say “urgent action” is needed after a study found that people who use social media are less willing to be vaccinated.

A new study from the Universities of Southampton and Oxford has found that those who look to social media for information are less willing to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at the University of Southampton, Will Jennings, Oxford professor Melina Mills and their research team, found that unregulated social media sources pose a “particular problem” in contributing to vaccine hesitancy.

The article, which has been published in the journal Vaccines, warns that social media users can fall prey to an ‘echo chamber’ effect – where tailored recommendations, based on an individual’s ‘watch history’, underline their concerns and rarely provide alternative or expert views.

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Collecting data from a survey and focus groups during the vaccine roll-out in December, the study found that a low personal perceived risk from Covid-19 was linked to vaccine hesitancy.

Now Professors Jennings, Mills, and the team are calling for action from governments, health officials and social media companies - and more information to fill the “knowledge voids”.

Professor Jennings, said: “Misinformation thrives when there is a lack of trust in government, politics and elites with a broader lesson that authorities need to communicate truthfully, clearly and consistently.”

Professor Mills added: “Misinformation proliferates on some social media platforms because users receive content suggestions aligned with their fears and watch histories.

“Information is often presented by non-experts, with limited fact checking, making it difficult to gauge the accuracy or balance the information.”

Video sharing platform, YouTube – which is said to contain a “high percentage of negative claims” - was particularly linked to hesitancy in the study.

The publication reveals: “YouTube users were significantly less willing to be vaccinated, with a 45 per cent probability of vaccine willingness.”

A study of YouTube vaccine content found 65.5 per cent of videos discouraged vaccine use focussing on autism, undisclosed risks, adverse reactions and mercury in vaccines.

Youtube was approached for comment but was unable to reply before the Echo went to press.