From the Journals

Pediatrician blogs generally provide accurate vaccine information

 

Key clinical point: Pediatricians usually provide accurate information via blogs.

Major finding: 91% of blog posts on 29 pediatrician blogs contained only CDC-consistent information.

Study details: A content analysis of 31 pediatrician blogs from Jan. 1, 2014, to Feb. 28, 2015.

Disclosures: The authors had no relevant financial disclosures.

Source: Bryan MA et al. Vaccine. 2018 Jan 29;36(5):765-70.

View on the News

Using social media to disseminate information and combat misinformation.

Facebook and Twitter are useful tools for spreading vaccine information to families, but refuting “antivaccine” information can cause pushback.

“I use social media to disseminate information to families in my practice via a practice Facebook page, as well as to a larger audience via Twitter. I also share information with personal comments on my personal Facebook page,” Deborah Greenhouse, MD, said in an interview. “I have definitely run into questions over concerns with specific vaccines, particularly HPV [human papillomavirus] vaccine and MMR vaccine. Most of these originate with anecdotal posts about vaccine adverse effects.”

When addressing vaccine fears, Dr. Greenhouse presents current, fact-based information from credible sources, stressing the fact that correlation does not equal causation. To keep the lines of communication open, she encourages her patients to call with vaccine safety related questions.

While she has had some positive experiences with refuting “antivaccine” information, it also has been unpleasant. “Sometimes my posts and tweets have led to good interactive discussion. But sometimes they have led to extremely hostile and sometimes obscenity-laden responses by antivaccine activists.”

Despite “antivaccine” concern and pushback via social media, “alternative scheduling” is not viewed as “better than nothing,” she said. The vaccine schedule is based on solid science and should be adhered to. Deviating from a recommended vaccine schedule can put a child at unnecessary, and unacceptable, risk.

Dr. Greenhouse has used social media outreach to effectively provide information to her patients, but also has noted that some pediatricians provide inaccurate information online. “They are tougher to refute than the typical layperson because their credentials make them seem credible.”

Dr. Deborah Greenhouse is a board-certified pediatrician at the Palmetto Pediatric and Adolescent Clinic in Columbia, S.C. She is also a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.


 

FROM VACCINE

Pediatrician blogs frequently provide accurate information to parents concerning vaccines, although some blogs do provide information inconsistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, a study found.

Nearly all vaccine information on active pediatrician blogs was consistent with online information from the CDC. However, we identified two exceptions in which pediatrician blogs conveyed extremely inaccurate, antivaccine information,” wrote Mersine A. Bryan, MD, of the University of Washington, Seattle, and her colleagues. “These two extreme blogs were the only blogs that contained any information that was not consistent with CDC information. This finding is important because pediatricians are viewed by parents as a trusted source of information about vaccines.”

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Much of the previous research regarding health care provider communication with parents regarding vaccines had not focused on the use of social media, which Dr. Bryan and her team addressed by designing a study to analyze the accuracy of pediatrician blogs regarding vaccines. The accuracy of a blog was assessed by 10 CDC-consistent concepts (CDCC) developed by the researchers. Using a rubric of terms, the research team identified a sample of blogs using multiple search engines from Jan. 1, 2014, to Feb. 28, 2015.

Ultimately, the researchers examined 31 blogs with 324 posts related to vaccine content. Most of the information addressed “specific vaccines,” which accounted for 36% of all vaccine-related blog posts. The two most discussed vaccines were MMR (41% of vaccine-specific posts) and influenza (35%). Pediatrician bloggers also commonly addressed “activism against antivaccination,” which was the second most popular topic category.

The analysis revealed that many of the blog posts (91%) on 29 pediatrician blogs provided CDCC information. Only two blogs contained inaccurate vaccine information. Vaccine safety was the most commonly refuted CDCC information, with inaccurate information such as, “We are literally poisoning unborn children with the Tdap now being given to pregnant women with no testing ever done to inject that much aluminum into pregnant animals even!”

Vaccine-scheduling CDCC information was another topic that was addressed inaccurately, with statements such as, “Routine administration of hepatitis B vaccine to 1-day-old infants, which began in 1991, is an unwarranted practice that needs to stopped as soon as possible.” Delayed vaccinations also were inaccurately discussed in 5% of blog posts from two bloggers, who recommended that hepatitis B and MMR vaccines be delayed.

The study had several limitations, including how the blogs were selected for analysis; all were identified using common search engines, which may have caused researchers to miss an unknown number of blogs. In addition, information may have been augmented by “hyperbloggers,” who account for a large proportion of blog posts about vaccines, the researchers reported in Vaccine.

“While uncommon, the presentation of inaccurate, antivaccine information on pediatrician blogs may be persuasive to parents reading vaccine information online. Parents who delay immunizations due to safety concerns are more likely to use the Internet to learn more about vaccines,” wrote Dr. Bryan and her colleagues. “While these negative pediatrician bloggers are the exception, their impact may be disproportionate as people exposed to negative vaccine information in blog format have a more negative view of vaccinations than those exposed to positive vaccine information. Half of parents do not cross-check the information they read online with their doctor.”

The authors had no relevant financial disclosures.

SOURCE: Bryan MA et al. Vaccine. 2018 Jan 29;36(5):765-70.

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