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One “successful” movement: anti-vaccination

One "successful" movement: anti-vaccination
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And now I will focus a little bit into the case of communication regarding the vaccination. As you may know, the anti-vaccination movement has been alive since the creation of vaccination. This is a photo, picture from an anti-vaccination cartoon from the year 1802. That they were somehow saying that by getting the vaccine, you are getting part of animal inside your body, and that’s what you see in the picture. Nowadays, vaccination is a new global health concern. As you can see here in the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, and the World Bank, they have said that internet-based information are promoting unsubstantiated rumours about vaccines that are out spreading worldwide, and they are facilitating new outbreaks, and also ultimately, leading to deaths.
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This website that you can see, National Vaccine Information Centre, is actually one of the major anti-vaccination websites in the US. As you can see, the quality of the website’s very high. They are using very good graphical design. And they are very well connected to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other type of social media channels.
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They have thousands of likes in Facebook. They are very active in Twitter and also in YouTube. And they are saying things like vaccinations have petroleum, also vaccination may cause infertility, and many other lies about vaccination just to discourage mothers and fathers to vaccinate their children.
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If you go to YouTube and you search for vaccination, you will find many videos against it. Things like a vaccination can be lethal, vaccination have mercury. And there’s still people believing that vaccination may cause autism.
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Why this is very important. There are studies that shows that when you ask parents in the US, who do you trust the most about vaccination? To whom they will go to get more information? 70% say that they will check the internet, and only 30% that they will ask their physicians. This is very interesting because that means that most parents will go to the internet before they go to the physician. Although, when you asked them which one do they trust the most, they always say their physician. But it’s that the internet is so easy to access that they will go to the internet first.
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And there are many cases reported in the literature about misinformation in social media, not only just in English, but also in other languages.
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In this other slide, I present a study, the use of Twitter to spread information about vaccination. And what they studied was how the opinions about the influenza vaccination in Twitter correlated to the vaccination rates in the different states in the US. So they found that those states where they have more negative tweets about the influence of vaccination, they were actually the same state with lower vaccination rates. So we can see a correlation between the sentiment in social media in that geographical area, and the vaccination rates in that particular area.
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There are also project of tracking into to the vaccine hesitancy from a global point of view. As you can see in this study, they are tracking online media, many newspapers, globally using the platform HealthMap, they are publishing news about vaccination. And the darker colours, they represent the more anti-vaccination news, and the lighter, the more pro-vaccination. And you can see actually that anti-vaccination is actually common everywhere. So it’s not just something happening in the West. But opinions against vaccination is a problem worldwide. Also in this slide from the HealthMap, they gave a keynote in the SIGIR conference.
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They have reported that the vaccination rumours, they change between countries, and also they change a lot between vaccines. So there are a set of rumours for the polio vaccine in India, Pakistan, and Nigeria. But then there are no such rumours in Europe about the polio. It’s something different. For instance, there is a lot of rumour about polio being used to control Muslim population and stuff like that. But in the UK, the main concern is the measles vaccine, and its link to autism that have been proven to be just false.
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And another thing that you need to consider is how people get this information. Yom-tov, fernandez-Luque where I participated, looking into how people search upon the measles vaccination in the US, and actually which page do they find. We have studied over a quarter million queries. And one of the thing found is that those people, that they already have some negative opinion about vaccination. They tend to use queries that let them find anti-vaccination website. So somehow to say that the information is the eye of the beholder.
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For example, if I believe that vaccinations may have mercury, when I will search for that, most likely I will end up in a anti-vaccination website because those are the one reporting about mercury in vaccination, not the health authorities. Also, if I have some opinion against vaccination and I go to a website, the impression might be that I am more inclined against vaccination. While some other parents that they believe that vaccinations are good, you just expose them to the same web page, and then they get positive reinforcement that vaccination is good. So it’s very individualised the way people react to online health information, and also how people search for that information.
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So therefor, health authorities is very important because that mean that one website doesn’t fit the particular needs of each user. So we cannot do one website for everybody. We may have to do one website for those that are against vaccination, one website for those that they are just neutral about vaccination, and another website for those that they already know that vaccination is important for their kids.
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In this study, just to summarise, the previous attitude toward vaccination will influence the rest of their search. And trusted website often use different vocabulary than those who are concerned about vaccination. So there is a mismatch between what people search and what trusted health website will offer.
Hindrance to vaccinate children is one of the vital threats to public health, resulting in millions of children either completely or partially un-immunized.
Refusal and hesitancy towards vaccination has become a serious challenge to the success of immunization programs. Vaccination is proven to be the most cost-effective intervention across the globe that could have saved 1.5 million deaths among children under five years, which constitutes 17% of child mortality globally, as reported by WHO in 2008.
Anti-Vaccination is turning out to be a serious problem: watch the above video to find out how websites and social media channels are helping to fuel the anti-vaccination movement.
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