Anti-vaccine sentiment is not going away, and in fact is getting stronger in the U.S. That is the conclusion of a new research study which examined anti-vaccine comments on social media, specifically Twitter, between 2010 and 2015 and found that they became more commonplace nationwide during that time. The anti-vaccine tweets were even more common among more affluent households and those who had a baby within the prior year.
The medical community has been fighting misinformation about childhood vaccines for years, particularly the notion that vaccines are linked to autism. But the explosion of social media in the past decade appears to have made that job even more difficult. "Most parents really have their children's best interests at heart, and they have been swayed by misinformation, by stories that are scary on the internet," says Dr. Melanie Mouzoon, pediatrician at Houston's Kelsey-Seabold clinic. "What we have shown is that vaccines are safe, that they don't cause autism, that people who get vaccinated don't have higher rates of autism."
Still, the anti-vaccination sentiment persists among some, and they have been using their social media megaphone to talk about it. Dr. Mouzoon notes that social media and the internet have a way of inflating things to seem bigger than they are. "Vaccine concerns are present in probably a third of parents, but refusal of vaccines is less than five percent of parents," she says. For those parents who do have concerns, Dr. Mouzoon works to allay their fears. "I try to calmly discuss with the family why they're taking a risk by not vaccinating, why vaccines have been proven not to cause autism," she says.
In fact, not only are vaccines still fully recommended for children, there are now some recommended for adults as well.