Online comments sway opinions on vaccinations

Online comments sway opinions on vaccinations

The latest upswing in illnesses, like measles, that can be prevented with vaccinations has sparked hot debate on social media. Many are turning to online resources to get information.

Online comments have an effect on vaccination opinion that is equal to or greater than public service announcements (PSA’s) from credible organizations, according to recent data.

Researchers from Washington State University enrolled participants in a study to determine the persuasive influence of different message sources on web users. Questionnaires were distributed after each design to determine a participant’s willingness to vaccinate themselves and their family members, along with their opinions on vaccination.

Study leaders found that participants were just as influenced by PSAs from credible sources as they were by online commenters whose expertise on the topic was unidentified.  When these commenters were identified as knowledgeable or credible, respondent surveys indicated a greater effect than the PSAs.

Some medical experts think there is some value in reading online opinions but parents need to be cautious.

“It is great that we have so much information at our fingertips today,” says Dr. Jennifer DeBruler, internal medicine physician at Advocate Medical Group in Mundelein, Il .  “As health care partners, my patient and I must be sure that we are getting credible information.  I always encourage patients to verify their health care information with their physician.”

Measles was virtually wiped out in the U.S. years ago but it has recently found its way back.Stirring up the most recent debate about young children who do not meet the vaccinations age requirement and become helpless victims of the disease.

“The choice of vaccination is a personal one made by the individual or a parent. However, I do encourage everyone to have a conversation about vaccinations with their physicians,” says Dr. DeBruler.

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  1. I have no doubt this is true, based on personal experiences online. But is it ever disappointing :-/

  2. This is disheartening on every front. These are generaly good hearted parents wanting to do right by their children, but are being woefully misinformed about the science involved in vaccinations. I’m quite a socially liberal incividual and with that comes the stereotype that liberals are somehow an educatedd elite, but the comments being esposed are anything but educated. I heard some commentators on CNN and MSNBC that “its unnatural to have the body exposed to toxins and viruses in a way that the body doesn’t react to naturally.” And I realized these people have no idea what a vacination does to the bodies immune system. It’s sad to say, but there will be a population of children at risk for dangerous diseases that their parrents could prevent. In the end…this is natural selection at its coldest.

  3. The basic problem is that we are required to give our children 29+ vaccinations for school attendance. Multiple vaccinations at ONE time, starting at infancy.. Parents are not being informed about the vaccinations CONTENTS. How can we make informed decisions when we are not informed. PLUS, big Pharma is never liable for any negative side effects, So what incentive do they have to fully test these vaccines. Also, remember that this year’s flu vaccine was deemed ineffective, yet “they” are still pushing for everyone to get it! Who should we trust?

  4. Fay,

    You, and people just like you, are EXACTLY the problem here – the EXACT reason why measles has resurged and caused children to die.

    Your total ignorance and paranoia about vaccinations is itself a contagious disease that is actually killing children. Think about that for a second before spouting off uninformed nonsense.

    Remember polio? It was nearly eradicated from the earth except there are pockets of distrustful people who refuse to vaccinate and now it is starting to make resurgence.

    Vaccine contents don’t matter. You’re scared about not understanding the science – I get that, but it doesn’t matter. They have proved OVER and OVER to be absolutely safe, yet because there is a word you do not know, or sounds scary, you throw up your hands and walk away from LIFE-SAVING medications. Do you know what ingredients are in levophed or amiodarone? I doubt it, yet they are a couple of the best medications on Earth for saving lives.

    The “Big Pharma” argument is nonsense. Peer-reviewed journals are constantly looking at the negative effects of medications – including vaccines. If someone were able to prove that a vaccine is unsafe it would literally make their career. That’s how research works. The incentive is to scrutinize everything because not only is it the right thing for patients, but it will make the researcher incredibly famous.

    The flu vaccine works dramatically different than other vaccines. The manufactures have to use very complicated statistical models to determine what three strains are most likely going to stake next year. Most of the time, the models do a great job. This year unfortunately that missed the mark a bit. That said, it is still SIGNFICANTLY better at preventing the flu than not being vaccinated.

    So in conclusion, trust those who know what the heck they are talking about. Those people are doctors and scientists. Those idiots on Facebook or Jenny McCarthy have zero credibility on the subject so you should ignore them entirely.

    Would you ask your local gas station attendant to diagnose your heart problems? NO WAY! So why would you let them risk your child’s or other people’s children’s’ lives?! Push down your paranoid instinct and think about the consequences of your words. Words matter, and on the subject of vaccinations they can literally KILL.

  5. Dr. Aaron Traeger

    Wow Fay! You are dangerously incorrect and continue to repeat many of the lies that the anti-vaccine industry spreads.

    1) “required to give our children 29+ vaccinations for school attendance”
    This is incorrect. The state of Illinois requires the following vaccines
    -1. Diptheria, Tetanus, Pertussis = 3
    -2 Measles, mumps and rubella = 3
    -3 Varicella = 1
    -4 Polio= 1
    -5 Hepatitis B = 1
    -6 Haemophalus influenza type b = 1
    That is 10 vaccines that are required for entry to school in the state of Illinois. Other states vary by only a couple.

    2) “Parents are not being informed about the vaccinations CONTENTS”
    By law, every time a vaccine is to be given in this country a “Vaccine Information Sheet” is required to be given. This details every part of the vaccine being given.

    3) “big Pharma is never liable for any negative side effects”
    You are greatly misrepresenting how the law is handled in regards to vaccine manufacturers. Because vaccines are part of the proven greater good for the population the government decided that vaccine manufacturers need to have legal action against them handled differently. If someone believes that they are injured by the vaccine there is a government process through the “National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program” ( through which they can be compensated. However, vaccine manufacturers are liable for things like negligence or telling lies on the internet.

    Actually, making vaccines and getting them approved is harder today than it ever has been.
    For more information please see the following resources:

    4) “this year’s flu vaccine was deemed ineffective”
    Again, this is woefully incorrect and a great stretch of the information out. This year’s flu vaccine was not a match for the major strain that was circulating prior to today. Does that mean that the vaccine is ineffective? Absolutely not, instead it is effective for the flu that is not around this year so far. Predicting what strain of the flu is going to circulate in the future is difficult and this year they did not get lucky. For more information, please see the CDC website below.

    5) “Who should we trust?”
    You should trust RELIABLE sources of information. Please see the list below:
    -1) YOUR physician
    -2) American Academy of Pediatrics (
    -3) Center for Disease Control (
    -4) Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Vaccine Education Center – My personal favorite! (​

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.