As part of KMi’s third cohort of summer scholars, Samuel Kwaku Antwi was researching the subject of misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine online. Specifically, Sam was interested in understanding how vaccine-related misinformation was impacting young people from Ghana. This fresh topic addressed gaps in the literature on young people’s responses to misinformation, particularly about health-related topics like the COVID-19 vaccine. As part of his research he conducted a small-scale study with young Ghanaians on their perceptions about the vaccine and misinformation topics that influenced those perceptions. He also analysed the International Fact-checking Network (IFCN) database from Poynter to understand what vaccine misinformation topics appeared to be spreading most in Ghana in general.
The poster he developed about his project can be viewed here, but we also caught up with Sam to ask him about his topic and his experience as a scholar with KMi.
Sam, can you tell us a little bit about why you were interested in looking at misinformation about the vaccine spreading in Ghana? Why is this an important topic to research?
I chose vaccine misinformation spreading in Ghana because there have been many articles (news), social media posts, and word of mouth communication that misled young people. It creates confusion and distracts them from getting the vaccine. The topic of vaccine misinformation is very essential as it helps to know the opinions of the young people about taking the vaccine.
In your research, you focused on younger people’s perceptions of the vaccine. Do you think scientific research on misinformation considers young people’s views enough? Why should we talk to young people more often about misinformation?
Scientific researchers have not considered young people’s views. They consider young people as “Gen Z” and think this generation is full of chaos and computer world which makes them lazy and does not seem to show effort in anything. But I want scientific researchers to consider young people’s views…they also face all this misinformation so they must be considered.
So true! In your findings, you say that young people were particularly worried about the impacts of the vaccine on fertility and other long-term health complications. That was such a fresh new insight for us. Did you find any evidence that young people are also positively influenced when they see fact-checks or corrective information about the vaccine?
Yes, they were much concerned about fertility and long-term predicaments. They are concerned about the generation after them, and that misinformation grips their soul and puts them in custody of fear. Of course, young people have been positively influenced when fact checkers proved those misinformation false with correct information. Now we can have the vaccine and still give birth without any predicament.
After researching this topic, How do you think we should be communicating to young people about misinformation about the vaccine?
Young people should be communicated with facts and proof, and also they tend to use social media platforms more often, so I suggest these communications could be turned into ads which will randomly appear to them any time they go on the internet.
Finally, what was it like to conduct academic research for you? Did you enjoy doing it? Which things were most difficult? Which things were most interesting?
I loved doing this research. It shows me new things. Things that I never thought of. It was sometimes difficult when I needed qualitative data, difficult to get people to participate in the survey and when they participated, they didn’t give as much information as I wanted from them. Analysing the data collected was the most interesting part. It makes me understand the topic more.
Totally hear you, Sam, about trying to collect qualitative data! We’re really glad you enjoyed your research with us. Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience of conducting research at the Open University?
The research with Open University has exposed me to things that have never come across my mind. It has helped me to learn more about myself and has improved my research skills. These are the things we need for our generation that will grant us interest in doing such, to be useful in our generation. Thank you OU! Thank you KMi! board, Thank you my Supervisors!!!
Thank YOU so much for talking to us today – and for conducting such great research!