Study finds social media interaction can improve attitudes toward vaccines

Using social media to increase understanding
Posted at 4:32 PM, May 16, 2018

Vaccinating children has become a hot topic in the last decade, as arguments often play out on social media, leaving some parents unsure and doctors scrambling to get them the right information. 

Not too long ago, all mother Megan Whelan was thinking about was how to vaccinate her children.

"With all the information that's out there all the celebrities who are you know spreading their stories And of course all the blog posts and things you see on Facebook and all of that," Whelan said. "It can be really overwhelming."

She decided to take her doctor's advice, but said it would have been nice to have other options for trusted information.

"I think to be able to go to one place where you can hear both sides of the story would be really interesting," Whelan said. "And you know, where you could hear from of course doctors other professionals but even just a panel of moms."

Researchers wanted to know if providing parents with accurate clinical information about vaccines through a website with access to vaccine experts would impact their attitudes about them. They found out it did.

Dr. Matthew Daley, a senior researcher at Kaiser Permanente, paneled a group of soon-to-be parents. His team gave some parents vaccine information from a website, others information from a website, social media, blogs, podcasts and chats, and others standard care. Daley's team found that website and social interaction improved attitudes toward vaccines in parents who were hesitant about them.

"Specifically their confidence in the benefits of vaccines improved," Dr. Daley said. "And then there are concerns about the risks of vaccines decreased."

Dr. Daley hopes this can be a model used nationwide to address parents vaccine concerns.

"Parents need more information than they're able to get in a brief visit with their child's physician," Dr. Daley said.