MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Beth Hoffman, B.Sc., graduate student
University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health
University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Vaccine refusal is a public health crisis – low vaccination rates are leading to outbreaks of deadly vaccine-preventable diseases. In 2017, Kids Plus Pediatrics, a Pittsburgh-based pediatric practice, posted a video on its Facebook pagef eaturing its practitioners encouraging HPV vaccination to prevent cancer. Nearly a month after the video posted, it caught the attention of multiple anti-vaccination groups and, in an eight-day period, garnered thousands of anti-vaccination comments.
Our team analyzed the profiles of a randomly selected sample of 197 commenters in the hopes that this crisis may be stemmed if we can better understand and communicate with vaccine-hesitant parents.
We determined that, although Kids Plus Pediatrics is an independent practice caring for patients in the Pittsburgh region, the commenters in the sample were spread across 36 states and eight countries.
By delving into the messages that each commenter had publicly posted in the previous two years, we also found that they clustered into four distinct subgroups:
- “trust,” which emphasized suspicion of the scientific community and concerns about personal liberty;
- “alternatives,” which focused on chemicals in vaccines and the use of homeopathic remedies instead of vaccination;
- “safety,” which focused on perceived risks and concerns about vaccination being immoral; and
- “conspiracy,” which suggested that the government and other entities hide information that this subgroup believes to be facts, including that the polio virus does not exist.