Tag Archives: University of Otago

University of Otago study: Misinformation on vaccines readily available online

23 Mar

Michaeleen Doucleff reported in the NPR story, How Vaccine Fears Fueled The Resurgence Of Preventable Diseases:

For most of us, measles and whooping cough are diseases of the past. You get a few shots as a kid and then hardly think about them again.
But that’s not the case in all parts of the world — not even parts of the U.S.
As an interactive map http://www.cfr.org/interactives/GH_Vaccine_Map/index.html#map from the Council on Foreign Relations illustrates, several diseases that are easily prevented with vaccines have made a comeback in the past few years. Their resurgence coincides with changes in perceptions about vaccine safety.
Since 2008 folks at the think tank CFR have been plotting all the cases of measles, mumps, rubella, polio and whooping cough around the world. Each circle on the map represents a local outbreak of a particular disease, while the size of the circle indicates the number of people infected in the outbreak.
As you flip through the various maps over the years, two trends clearly emerge: Measles has surged back in Europe, while whooping cough is has become a problem here in the U.S.
Childhood immunization rates plummeted in parts of Europe and the U.K. after a 1998 study falsely claimed that the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella was linked to autism.
That study has since been found to be fraudulent. But fears about vaccine safety have stuck around in Europe and here in the U.S.
Viruses and bacteria have taken full advantage of the immunization gaps.
In 2011, France reported a massive measles outbreak with nearly 15,000 cases. Only the Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Somalia suffered larger measles outbreaks that year.
In 2012, the U.K. reported more than 2,000 measles cases, the largest number since 1994.
Here in the U.S., the prevalence of whooping cough shot up in 2012 to nearly 50,000 cases. Last year cases declined to about 24,000 — which is still more than tenfold the number reported back in the early ’80s when the bacteria infected less than 2,000 people.
So what about countries in Africa? Why are there so many big, colorful circles dotting the continent? For many parents there, the problem is getting access to vaccines, not fears of it.
http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/01/25/265750719/how-vaccine-fears-fueled-the-resurgence-of-preventable-diseases?utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=20140202&utm_source=mostemailed

There are many myths regarding vaccination of children.

Dina Fine Maron wrote in the Daily Beast article, 6 Top Vaccine Myths:

To sort through the onslaught of information and misinformation about childhood immunizations, we asked Austin, Texas-based pediatrician Ari Brown, coauthor of “Baby 411: Clear Answers and Smart Advice for your Baby’s First Year,” to debunk some of the most common vaccination myths.
Myth 1: It’s not necessary to vaccinate kids against diseases that have been largely eradicated in the United States.
Reality: Although some diseases like polio and diphtheria aren’t often seen in America (in large part because of the success of the vaccination efforts), they can be quite common in other parts of the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that travelers can unknowingly bring these diseases into the United States, and if we were not protected by vaccinations, these diseases could quickly spread throughout the population. At the same time, the relatively few cases currently in the U.S. could very quickly become tens or hundreds of thousands of cases without the protection we get from vaccines. Brown warns that these diseases haven’t disappeared, “they are merely smoldering under the surface.”
Most parents do follow government recommendations: U.S. national immunization rates are high, ranging from 85 percent to 93 percent, depending on the vaccine, according to the CDC. But according to a 2006 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the 20 states that allow personal-belief opt outs in addition to religious exemptions saw exemptions grow by 61 percent, to 2.54 percent between 1991 and 2004.
Brown is concerned that parents who opt out or stagger the vaccine schedule can end up having to deal with confusing follow-up care, which could produce an increase in disease outbreaks like last summer’s measles epidemic. A 2008 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology reported that when there are more exemptions, children are at an increased risk of contracting and transmitting vaccine-preventable diseases.
For more on the pros and cons of staggering or skipping vaccinations, visit MSN’s guide or read this U.S. News and World Report piece. For information on vaccine safety, check out the CDC’s information page. To search for your state’s vaccine requirements, see the National Network for Immunization Information.
Myth 2: Mercury is still in kids’ vaccines.
Reality: At the center of this issue is a preservative called thimerosal (a compound containing mercury) that once was a common component in many vaccines because it allowed manufacturers to make drugs more cheaply and in multidose formulations. But public concern, new innovations and FDA recommendations led to its removal from almost all children’s vaccines manufactured after 2001. (More thimerosal background can be found at the FDA’s Web site) Since flu vaccines are not just for children, manufacturers still put thimerosal in some flu-shot formulations. You can ask your pediatrician for the thimerosal-free version, says Brown.
If your child does not have asthma and is at least 2 years old, Brown recommends the FluMist nasal-spray vaccination over the flu shot. “It seems to have better immune protection and it could help your child avoid another shot,” she says. (Caveat: the spray does contain a live version of the virus, which can result in a slight increase in flulike symptoms).
Myth 3: Childhood vaccines cause autism.
Reality: There is no scientific evidence that this link exists. Groups of experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Institute of Medicine (IOM), agree that vaccines are not responsible for the growing number of children now recognized to have autism.
Earlier this month, the law supported scientists’ conclusions in this arena with three rulings from a section of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, which stated that vaccines were not the likely cause of autism in three unrelated children. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in an online statement following the ruling, “The medical and scientific communities have carefully and thoroughly reviewed the evidence concerning the vaccine-autism theory and have found no association between vaccines and autism.” Noting the volume of scientific evidence disproving this link, an executive member of one of the nation’s foremost autism advocacy groups, Autism Speaks, recently stepped down from her position because she disagrees with the group’s continued position that there is a connection between the vaccines and autism.
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Myth 4: Getting too many vaccines can overwhelm the immune system and cause adverse reactions or even serious illness.
Reality: Children’s immune systems are capable of combating far more antigens (weak or killed viruses) than they encounter via immunizations. In fact, the jury is still out on if there’s an actual limit on how many the body can handle—though one study puts the number around a theoretical 10,000 vaccines in one day.(Visit the American Academy of Pediatrics’ site or the Network for Immunization Information for more information)
Currently, “There is even less of a burden on the immune system [via vaccines] today than 40 years ago,” says Edgar Marcuse, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington who works on immunization policy and vaccines. He points to the whooping-cough vaccine as an example where there are far fewer antigens in the shot than the earlier version administered decades ago. Brown says she supports following the recommended schedule for vaccinations, which outlines getting as many as five shots in one day at a couple check-ups. (The CDC’s recommended vaccination schedule can be found here.) “I have kids, and I wouldn’t recommend doing anything for my patients that I wouldn’t do for my own kids,” she says.
The CDC reports that most vaccine adverse events are minor and temporary, such as a sore arm or mild fever and “so few deaths can plausibly be attributed to vaccines that it is hard to assess the risk statistically.” Of all deaths reported to the Health and Human Services’ Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting site between 1990 and 1992, only one is believed to be even possibly associated with a vaccine. The Vaccine Safety Datalink Project, an initiative of the CDC and eight health-care organizations, looks for patterns in these reports and determines if a vaccine is causing a side effect or if symptoms are largely coincidental.
If you have concerns about following the recommended vaccination, schedule don’t wait until a check-up. Set up a consultation appointment with your pediatrician, or even outline a strategy for care with your doctor during your pregnancy.
Myth 5: It’s better to let my kid get chickenpox “naturally.”
Reality: Before the chickenpox vaccine was licensed in 1995, parents sometimes brought their child to a party or playground hoping that their child might brush up against a pox-laden kid to get their dose of chickenpox over since cases were usually less severe for children than adults. But pediatricians say severe complications are possible with chickenpox—including bacterial infections that could result in a child’s hospitalization or death. (More information on the chickenpox vaccine is available at the CDC’s Web site.)
Now that there’s a vaccine for chickenpox, more than 45 states require the shots (unless your child already had the chicken pox or can prove natural immunity). Two shots usually guarantees your child a way out of being bedecked in calamine lotion for two feverish weeks, but some individuals do still come down with a milder form of the pox. Most pediatricians recommend getting the shot.
Myth 6: The flu shot causes the flu.
Reality: The flu shot does not contain a live virus, so your child can’t get the flu from this shot. But, after the shot, it’s not uncommon to feel a bit achy while the immune system mounts its response. Remember that for two weeks following the shot, your child can still get the flu, so be sure to help your child avoid that feverish kid next door. http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2009/02/22/six-top-vaccine-myths.html

A question in the current climate is what can be done to make parents responsible for putting other children at risk.

See, https://drwilda.com/tag/vaccines/ and https://drwilda.com/tag/vaccination/

Science Daily reported in Misinformation on vaccines readily available online:

Parents researching childhood vaccinations online are likely to encounter significant levels of negative information, researchers at the University of Otago, Wellington, have found.
Lead researcher Dr Lucy Elkin says negative information about vaccines remains readily available on Google, Facebook and YouTube, despite attempts by the internet platforms to better control access to misinformation through algorithm and policy changes.
The researchers searched the three platforms for information on vaccines, mimicking the kind of ‘real-life’ search that would be conducted by a parent looking for information on childhood vaccinations. Their research is published in the leading scientific journal Vaccine.
Dr Elkin says that while most of the websites generated by Google (80 per cent) and videos published on YouTube (75 per cent) were positive about vaccines, half of the Facebook pages were negative towards vaccines.
“Parents would be able to find information encouraging or discouraging vaccination on the vast majority of the websites, Facebook pages and YouTube videos analysed, but popular pages on Facebook containing vaccine information were more polarised.”
She says steps being taken to reduce the amount of “vaccine misinformation” shared on websites are likely to be improving the quality of information available on Google and YouTube.
“The greater proportion of vaccine negative content on Facebook compared to YouTube may reflect the different degrees to which providers are censoring vaccine-negative content.
“Facebook state that the purpose of their platform is to ‘build community’ and to ‘connect with others’. This could mean that Facebook may intentionally connect people with like-minded views on vaccination and therefore have little interest in censoring vaccine-negative content…. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200312142300.htm

Citation:

Misinformation on vaccines readily available online
Date: March 12, 2020
Source: University of Otago
Summary:
Parents researching childhood vaccinations online are likely to encounter significant levels of negative information, researchers have found.

Journal Reference:
Lucy E Elkin, Susan R.H. Pullon, Maria H. Stubbe. ‘Should I vaccinate my child?’ comparing the displayed stances of vaccine information retrieved from Google, Facebook and YouTube. Vaccine, 2020; 38 (13): 2771 DOI: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2020.02.041

Here is the press release from the University of Otago:

NEWS RELEASE 12-MAR-2020
Misinformation on vaccines readily available online
UNIVERSITY OF OTAGO
Parents researching childhood vaccinations online are likely to encounter significant levels of negative information, researchers at the University of Otago, Wellington, have found.
Lead researcher Dr Lucy Elkin says negative information about vaccines remains readily available on Google, Facebook and YouTube, despite attempts by the internet platforms to better control access to misinformation through algorithm and policy changes.
The researchers searched the three platforms for information on vaccines, mimicking the kind of ‘real-life’ search that would be conducted by a parent looking for information on childhood vaccinations. Their research is published in the leading scientific journal Vaccine.
Dr Elkin says that while most of the websites generated by Google (80 per cent) and videos published on YouTube (75 per cent) were positive about vaccines, half of the Facebook pages were negative towards vaccines.
“Parents would be able to find information encouraging or discouraging vaccination on the vast majority of the websites, Facebook pages and YouTube videos analysed, but popular pages on Facebook containing vaccine information were more polarised.”
She says steps being taken to reduce the amount of “vaccine misinformation” shared on websites are likely to be improving the quality of information available on Google and YouTube.
“The greater proportion of vaccine negative content on Facebook compared to YouTube may reflect the different degrees to which providers are censoring vaccine-negative content.
“Facebook state that the purpose of their platform is to ‘build community’ and to ‘connect with others’. This could mean that Facebook may intentionally connect people with like-minded views on vaccination and therefore have little interest in censoring vaccine-negative content.
“This is significant because, typically, when browsing anything on the internet, a person’s search history is remembered and further similar content will be generated. Those reading vaccine-critical information on Facebook are more likely to come across vaccine-critical information in subsequent searches on any platform, regardless of whether they are looking on social media, or on a search engine.”
Dr Elkin says the level of vaccine critical information on Facebook is concerning because evidence shows those viewing vaccine-critical information online are more likely to be hesitant about getting their children vaccinated.
“It is important that vaccine-promoting agencies continue to make every effort to maximize their presence online so that parents who are researching whether or not to vaccinate their children will encounter evidence-based information online.”
She says health professionals can also help to accurately inform and support parents by referring them to credible websites containing well-validated information.
The research paper, ‘Should I vaccinate my child? comparing the displayed stances of vaccine information retrieved from Google, Facebook and YouTube’ is published in the international journal Vaccine.
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See, Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania study: Vaccine misinformation and social media https://drwilda.com/tag/annenberg-public-policy-center-of-the-university-of-pennsylvania/

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