how does social networks affect a parents choice to vaccinate essay
The four main themes (i.e., topics at the online forum) were divided into sub-themes and are summarized below with relevant quotes of the participants. Despite separate analyses, the findings on parents who partially and completely refused vaccination are described together, because they were very similar. The few differences between these two sub-groups are described at the end of the results section.
Tates K, Zwaanswijk M, Otten R, van Dulmen S, Hoogerbrugge PM, Kamps WA, Bensing JM: Online focus groups as a tool to collect data in hard-to-include populations: examples from pediatric oncology. BMC Med Res Methodol. 2009, 9: 15-10.1186/1471-2288-9-15.
Immunisation then and now
Prior to the development of vaccines in the eighteenth century, people could only become immune to diseases by contracting them and surviving. As the body deals with infection, it creates antibodies and other responses to the microorganisms that cause the disease, which means further exposure to infection is more easily dealt with. Modern immunisation [Ref: Wikipedia] against infectious diseases can be administered in a number of ways, but most commonly through vaccination. Artificial active immunisation delivers a very small and weakened quantity of a virus or bacterium into the body, but the body’s immune response is the same as for the actual infection itself, thus preparing it for any future attacks of the disease. Many childhood diseases, which in previous eras could have been deadly, are now readily managed and controlled, especially in the West. The introduction of the polio vaccine in 1953 [Ref: History], for example, has seen an almost complete eradication of the disease worldwide, with just those countries with less comprehensive immunisation programmes still suffering outbreaks [Ref: Guardian]. But not everyone supports or approves of vaccination programmes, for a variety of sometimes complex reasons. Over the past two decades, there have been increasingly vocal anti-vaccination movements in the UK and the USA which, according to some commentators, “frequently harbor a deep distrust of government. They often suggest that vaccination is motivated by profit and is an infringement of personal liberty and choice; vaccines violate the laws and nature and are temporary or ineffective; and good hygiene is sufficient to protect against disease.” [Ref: Washington Post] But it’s not the case that those who rejected the MMR jab for their children were ideologically opposed to vaccinations. Parents often found themselves in an impossible position, as parent Kirsty Grocott explained: “We were making decisions about an illness that many of us had never seen at first hand. Measles itself was an abstract compared to the perceived threat of autism. Parents made decisions believing them to be in the best interests of their children, people capable of rational and intelligent thought, decided to eschew the vaccination because they genuinely felt that the risk was too great.” [Ref: Telegraph]
This section provides a summary of the key issues in the debate, set in the context of recent discussions and the competing positions that have been adopted.
How Misinformation Moves
Social platforms and their gameable algorithms have provided a space for the anti-vaccine movement to thrive. Search functions and recommendation engines proactively surface anti-vaccine communities and content. Social networks have profoundly transformed communication, and the anti-vaccine movement is capitalizing on the new infrastructure of speech to amplify its growth and reach new audiences.
Even more troubling is the group’s disregard for the concept of herd immunity. In one part of the website, the group concludes that all California schools “as a whole” have a vaccination rate that far exceeds the levels needed to maintain herd immunity. The group does not substantiate how it reaches the conclusion that every school in California has a vaccination rate sufficient to achieve herd immunity. In fact, in 2015, the California Department of Public Health reported that in Marin County, only 87.8% of children in childcare were fully vaccinated. 8 In 2016, a charter school in California shut down temporarily after one student contracted measles. 9 The California Department of Public Health reported that the vaccination rate for kindergarteners in that school was 43%. 10 Contrary to the evidence, the website conveys that the vaccination rate is so high that parents can easily opt out and still benefit from herd immunity. In the name of “choice” the website actually promotes free riding—the act of getting a benefit without being a participant in a beneficial group activity.
Division of Medical Ethics, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA
Overall, 321 Facebook profiles were associated with the thousand-plus sampled items. The socio-demographic data for this sample provide insights into the commentators’ demographics. These were as follows Footnote 22 :
This group constituted the most diverse public debate and discussion platform in the 2013 Polio crisis context, since it included participants from different professional and socio-economic backgrounds. Thirty-one percent of the commentators wrote only one item, but 12 % of the commentators were frequent contributors (i.e. people who contributed over 10 items). Of the frequent contributors, 55 % (n = 22) were physicians, who provided answers to the public’s questions.