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Vaccine hesitancy and (fake) news: Quasi‐experimental evidence from Italy

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  • Vincenzo Carrieri
  • Leonardo Madio
  • Francesco Principe

Abstract

The spread of fake news and misinformation on social media is blamed as a primary cause of vaccine hesitancy, which is one of the major threats to global health, according to the World Health Organization. This paper studies the effect of the diffusion of misinformation on immunization rates in Italy by exploiting a quasi‐experiment that occurred in 2012, when the Court of Rimini officially recognized a causal link between the measles‐mumps‐rubella vaccine and autism and awarded injury compensation. To this end, we exploit the virality of misinformation following the 2012 Italian court's ruling, along with the intensity of exposure to nontraditional media driven by regional infrastructural differences in Internet broadband coverage. Using a Difference‐in‐Differences regression on regional panel data, we show that the spread of this news resulted in a decrease in child immunization rates for all types of vaccines.

Suggested Citation

  • Vincenzo Carrieri & Leonardo Madio & Francesco Principe, 2019. "Vaccine hesitancy and (fake) news: Quasi‐experimental evidence from Italy," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 28(11), pages 1377-1382, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:hlthec:v:28:y:2019:i:11:p:1377-1382
    DOI: 10.1002/hec.3937
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    File URL: https://doi.org/10.1002/hec.3937
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Alessandro Gavazza & Mattia Nardotto & Tommaso Valletti, 2019. "Internet and Politics: Evidence from U.K. Local Elections and Local Government Policies," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 86(5), pages 2092-2135.
    2. Anderberg, Dan & Chevalier, Arnaud & Wadsworth, Jonathan, 2011. "Anatomy of a health scare: Education, income and the MMR controversy in the UK," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 515-530, May.
    3. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-In-Differences Estimates?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(1), pages 249-275.
    4. Lenisa V. Chang, 2018. "Information, education, and health behaviors: Evidence from the MMR vaccine autism controversy," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 27(7), pages 1043-1062, July.
    5. Alessandro Gavazza & Mattia Nardotto & Tommaso Valletti, 2019. "Internet and Politics: Evidence from U.K. Local Elections and Local Government Policies," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 86(5), pages 2092-2135.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • L82 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Entertainment; Media
    • L86 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Information and Internet Services; Computer Software

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