Anti-Vaccine Attitudes Thrives on Twitter

Anti-Vaccine Attitudes Thrives on Twitter
Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.
 

Lately, we are witnessing the rise of the anti-vaccine trend. Parents are exposed to different websites and articles claiming that vaccines will harm their babies. The content usually features confessions of some parents whose kid got sick, but it is always difficult to check the accuracy of those claims*.

Even though scientific research proved vaccines don’t cause autism, many parents still refuse to vaccinate their children. Where does this trend come from? The latest study confirms Twitter is the hotspot for the anti-vaccine sentiment.

Twitter And Anti-Vaccine Sentiment

The growing anti-vaccine trends in the US didn’t happen out of blue, they spread across the country with the help of internet. Thanks to the social media websites, people can share content, communicate, and discuss every subject, including vaccines.

Twitter is one of the most popular social media platforms and it also gives people an opportunity to connect with more users than other websites.

That’s why, Christopher J. Vargo and a group of scientists at the University of Colorado-Boulder carried out a study whose primary objective was to analyze temporal trends, geographic distribution, and demographic correlates of anti-vaccine sentiment on Twitter in a period between 2009 and 2015.

In order to find answers to this interesting subject, scientists developed a machine-learning algorithm to go through more than half-million tweets posted by users from the US. For more accurate results, they only included tweets including both vaccines and autism into the analysis.

Findings, published in the journal Social Science & Medicine[1] , showed that 549,972 tweets were downloaded and coded for the presence of anti-vaccine sentiment. The analysis showed that 50% of these tweets contained anti-vaccine opinions.

The volume of anti-vaccine tweets increased each time some news about vaccines was covered by media. Due to the growing number of anti-vaccine tweets, scientists concluded that Twitter is an epicenter for negative attitudes toward vaccines.

Anti-Vaccine Tweets

States With Most Anti-Vaccine Tweets

The team of scientists also analyzed geographical aspect i.e. the states with the most anti-vaccine tweets. Their results showed that California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania had anti-vaccination tweet volume that strongly deviated from the national average.

For example, while during the five-year study period there were only 24% anti-vaccine tweets in Denver, a total of 59% was recorded in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Researchers explain [2] that anti-vaccine Twitter posts don’t represent the nation’s attitudes toward vaccines, but they do indicate the level of anti-vaccination activism in a specific area.

About 67% of these tweets were associated with larger populations and higher concentrations of women who have given birth recently, high-income households, men between 40 and 44 years of age, and men with a minimal college education.
The importance of these findings go beyond showing that Twitter has become a sort of an anti-vaccine epicenter, they reveal that monitoring these tweets could help scientists, doctors, and federal agencies identify and debunk common misconceptions.

Identifying the roots of anti-vaccine behaviors and myths that make parents avoid vaccinating their children can help improve* public health.

Parents and couples who plan to conceive should consult their doctors about their baby’s health and concerns they have about all aspects of health, including vaccines.

Read Also: Confirmed: Heredity Is The Main Cause Of Autism

Conclusion

The latest study made an interesting discovery and showed that Twitter has become a center of the anti-vaccine trend. With the rise of vaccine-related news, the volume of anti-vaccine tweets increases* significantly and California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania were states with the highest number of these posts.

Studies showed on multiple occasions that vaccines don’t cause autism. If posts or articles you find online do not provide scientific research as an evidence to support* anti-vaccine claims*, do not trust them.

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Author

Expert Author : Dr. Ahmed Zayed (Consumer Health Digest)

Dr. Ahmed Zayed Helmy holds a baccalaureate of Medicine and Surgery. He has completed his degree in 2011 at the University of Alexandria, Egypt. Dr. Ahmed believes in providing knowledgeable information to readers. Other than his passion for writing, currently he is working as a Plastic surgeon and is doing his masters at Ain shams University.