Mark Zuckerberg Says Vaccine Hesitancy Is Not a Social Media Problem, 'Unique' to America

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says it would be inaccurate to portray vaccine hesitancy as a social media problem because of its "unique" prevalence among Americans.

When asked if he was surprised that studies have found lower vaccination rates among people who use Facebook as their primary source of information, Zuckerberg told CBS' Gayle King that while people have shared COVID-19 misinformation on his platform, there is higher vaccine hesitancy among Americans than among its global counterparts.

He contended that because Facebook has more than 2.8 billion users around the world, vaccine hesitancy would be more internationally widespread if it was caused by social media.

"If you look around the world at different countries, right, different countries I think are doing better and worse on getting their citizens vaccinated. The U.S., I think, has a specific issue on this," Zuckerberg said in the Thursday interview.

"People use Facebook and social media all across the world, so if this was primarily a question about social media, then I think you would see that being the effect in all of these countries where people use it," Zuckerberg added. "But I think there's something that's unique in our ecosystem here—whether it's some of the political leaders or some of the media figures—that I think is different than what we're seeing across a lot Europe or across a lot of other countries that are leading to higher levels of this."

A global analysis conducted by Morning Consult between August 10 and 16 found that the U.S. has a higher rate of vaccine opposition than any other country tracked besides Russia.

Through over 75,000 weekly interviews around the world, the data intelligence company found that 17 percent of American participants said they were unwilling to get the vaccine, while another 10 percent said they were uncertain about the shots.

Comparably, 13 percent of German participants, 11 percent of French participants and 9 percent of Australian participants said they were unwilling to get vaccinated.

The only country where vaccine skepticism was higher than the U.S. was in Russia, where 27 percent said they were unwilling to get a vaccine.

Mark Zuckerberg Facebook Vaccine Hesitancy Misinformation US
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said vaccine hesitancy should not be pinned onto social media platforms. Zuckerberg on July 8, 2021 in Sun Valley, Idaho. Kevin Dietsch/Getty

While there are various reasons why some people do not want to get vaccinated, including concerns about side effects and fast clinical trials—which were the top reasons among unvaccinated Americans, some have blamed the proliferation of COVID-19 misinformation on social media platforms for spreading vaccine hesitancy among users.

Facebook has come under increasing fire for refusing to share its complete data with White House officials, who have been begging for the social network to hand over the data in hopes of understanding how medical misinformation disseminates so rapidly on the platform.

Last month, President Joe Biden lashed out at "platforms like Facebook," saying, "They're killing people. The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated."

However, Facebook says suggestions that the company is hiding its data from the White House is "anecdotal and inconsistent with the facts," adding that it has shared public survey data, which included users' attitudes toward vaccines, with Biden's team.

In Facebook's second-quarter community standards enforcement report, the social media company said it has removed more than 20 million pieces of misinformation since the beginning of the pandemic.

"I don't think pinning this on social media primarily is accurate," Zuckerberg said Thursday.