Expert Pitch

Rutgers Expert Available to Discuss COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy Among Latinos/as

Yonaira Rivera, a Rutgers University–New Brunswick assistant professor of communication, is available to discuss the role misinformation plays in COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among U.S. Latinos/as and other communities of color.

“While issues related to vaccine hesitancy go beyond social media, evidence suggests that these platforms contribute to the spread of misinformation that can bolster these beliefs and misperceptions,” said Rivera. “My research on cancer misinformation on social media, which focuses on Latinos ages 40-75, highlights that many individuals do not have the time, skills or motivation to adequately verify content they encounter. Instead, they trust the sources who share it – despite the content having low scientific credibility and being distributed by potentially unreliable sources. These findings suggest we should address digital health literacy among adult populations to help reduce the spread of health misinformation. But interventions at the platform level are also imperative, as individuals may not be sufficiently motivated or skilled to verify the health information they encounter on social media.”

Rivera testified April 15 before the Subcommittee on Communications, Media and Broadband, part of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, during the “Shot of Truth: Communicating Trusted Vaccine Information” hearing.

Rivera addressed three critical areas: the role of social media in the spread of misinformation about COVID-19 and the power of such misinformation to undermine coronavirus vaccine communication campaigns among Latino and other Black, Indigenous and people of color communities; effective methods and tactics to reach Latino and other Black, Indigenous and people of color communities with evidence-based messages to effectively increase their willingness to become vaccinated; and lastly, the need for more research to understand these broad and complicated issues. 

Rivera specializes on understanding how Latino communities engage with health information and misinformation on social media, and how this engagement can impact their health decisions. She is also a co-founder of the grassroots organization Puerto Rico Stands, which she helped organize after Hurricane María to assist community leaders in Puerto Rico find and implement long-term relief efforts. 

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Broadcast interviews: Rutgers University–New Brunswick has broadcast-quality TV and radio studios available for remote live or taped interviews with Rutgers experts.

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