Online Media and Recorded Events

Vaccine case study: Understanding the impact of polio vaccine disinformation in Pakistan

February 19, 2020

This case study examines how a set of fake videos originating from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, northwest Pakistan were spread on social media (i.e.; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) claiming children were falling sick after receiving polio vaccines. Mass vaccine hesitancy emerged due to false information, conspiracies, rumors and the spread of misinformation. Historically this region has struggled with vaccine uptake, as many Pakistanis associate the polio vaccine with the West meddling in the country’s affairs.

This case study contextualizes the reasons for vaccine hesitancy in Pakistan, provides an account on how the videos spread, and examines the long-term impacts on the population of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and other Pakistani provinces with ongoing polio cases. This case study serves as a useful tool in understanding the messaging of the rumors that spread and demographics of those who reshare misinformation across social networks. The case study concludes with recommendations for global and national health authorities, as well as for social and search companies.