Skip to content

Words got us into the anti-vaccine crisis. Here’s how they’ll get us out.

People in this story

Experience Magazine, November 2021

In December 2020, the first COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the United States and Europe. It was a flickering light at the end of the pandemic tunnel—the first inkling that our world had a path back to normal. Elderly patients and high-risk medical workers received their shots to joyous applause. For the first time in months, millions of people breathed a collective, cautious sigh of relief.

But others—a minority, but a critical one—had questions. That same month, user searches for “vaccine” and “ingredients” spiked on Google, according to a sample analysis of 100 million searches by researchers at Northeastern University and several partner universities. And the results were teeming with bad information: articles from domains like and with headlines reading, “Covid vaccine ingredients: What is in Pfizer, Moderna mRNA vaccines?” and “Leading COVID Vaccine Candidates Plagued by Safety Concerns.”

The stories themselves don’t look all that different from the ones that appear in mainstream news outlets. But is the online home of a notorious British tabloid; has been a prolific source of vaccine misinformation since long before COVID. In the weeks following those first inoculations, around 7% of the results for searches that included the words “vaccine” and “ingredient” yielded articles from sites like those—a much higher proportion than either “vaccine” or “ingredient” would yield on its own. Seven percent may sound small, but in terms of the vast volume of internet searches, it can translate to reaching thousands of people. It was the highest rate of search results that could be classified as “misinformation” among more than 90 pandemic-related queries the researchers tracked.

Continue reading at Experience Magazine.

More Stories

Picture of Dasani water bottles.

Gov. Healey to sign order banning single-use plastic bottles for state agencies

Co-founder Andrew Song of solar geoengineering startup Make Sunsets holds a weather balloon filled with helium, air and sulfur dioxide at a park in Reno, Nevada, United States on February 12, 2023.

Some Politicians Want to Research Geoengineering as a Climate Solution. Scientists Are Worried

Plastics and other trash littered a salt marsh in Chelsea in April.

Massachusetts lags on banning plastics