Inoculating Against Vaccine Fears?

Source: MedPage Today

By: Smith, Michael


Researchers led by Dr. Heidi Larson of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have adapted the HealthMap automated data collection system used to track disease outbreaks to search for online mentions of human vaccines or vaccination campaigns or programs. The study, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, indicates that places where public fear about vaccines is increasing can be identified in real-time using a surveillance tool. According to Larson, “The Internet has speeded up the global spread of unchecked rumors and misinformation about vaccines and can seriously undermine public confidence, leading to low rates of vaccine uptake and even disease outbreaks.” The adapted HealthMap system found 10,380 vaccine reports from 144 counties between May 1, 2011, and April 30, 2012, 31 percent of which were negative. Twenty-four percent of the 3,209 negative reports focused on impacts on vaccine programs and disease outbreaks, while 21 percent focused on beliefs, awareness, and perceptions; 16 percent on vaccine safety; and 16 percent on vaccine delivery programs. Researchers found that one-third of positive reports and just 3 percent of negative reports covered vaccine development and introduction, while only 3 percent of positive reports touched on beliefs, awareness, and perceptions. In the accompanying commentary, Dr. Natasha Sarah Crowcroft of Public Health Ontario and Dr. Kwame Julius McKenzie of the Center for Addictions and Mental Health in Toronto said, “Public health systems need to move beyond passive responses to vaccine safety events towards active preparedness.”

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