Vax Populi: The Social Costs of Online Vaccine Skepticism
56 Pages Posted: 3 Feb 2023 Last revised: 23 May 2023
Date Written: 2022
This paper quantifies the impact of online vaccine skepticism on pediatric vaccine uptake and health outcomes. We propose a novel methodology that combines Natural Language Processing and an instrumental variable strategy that leverages the intransitivity of the social network’s connections. By matching the universe of Italian vaccine-related tweets for 2013-2018 with vaccine coverage and preventable hospitalizations at the municipality level, we find that a 10pp increase in anti-vaccine sentiment causes i) a 0.43pp decrease in coverage of the Measles-MumpsRubella vaccine, ii) additional 2.1 hospitalizations among vulnerable populations per 100,000 residents, and iii) an 11% increase in the relevant healthcare expenses, equivalent to 7,311 euros. Drawing on the results of a simulated model, we further show the importance of targeted interventions to counter misinformation and improve vaccine uptake.
Funding Declaration: The authors acknowledge the financial support of the Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance (EIEF) and the computational support of ISCRA/CINECA.
Conflict of Interests: The authors Matilde Giaccherini e Joanna Kopinska declare that they have no relevant competing or material financial interests that could influence the research reported in this paper.
Keywords: social media, Twitter, vaccines, controversialness, polarization, text analysis
JEL Classification: I180, L820, Z180
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation