Why some messages speak better: child immunization in the news and on the internet

Curr Drug Saf. 2015;10(1):87-93. doi: 10.2174/157488631001150407111448.


Modern health protection generally affords vaccination against infectious diseases along with other environmental health threats. However, with the increase both in development of new vaccines and in making more and more vaccines available to the general public comes an increase in health scares, mainly in the media. In the wake of health scares, we often find government and health organizations launching campaigns to restore faith in current vaccine policies. But health scares are hard to quell and seem to have messages that "speak better" to those unconvinced about the safety of vaccines. This paper seeks to review recent studies on the health messages prevalent in various news outlets and on the internet. Equal focus has been given to messages originating from government and health organizations as well as those that stem from lay organizations, such as parent communities and anti-vaccination groups. Particular emphasis was placed on studies that did not simply look at the content of the message, but which explored the rhetoric of the message. This review revealed that there is a shortage of studies, and that a comprehensive study of health messages and communication outlets across a much wider range of vaccines is urgently warranted. Based on current research, lay-based/lay-oriented dissemination approaches seem to have a greater effect on lay perceptions of vaccines, and potentially parent behavior. In terms of content, these approaches rely heavily on parent stories around adverse effects, and in terms of rhetoric, the language used tends towards dread words.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Access to Information
  • Child
  • Child Health*
  • Consumer Health Information
  • Fear
  • Health Communication / methods*
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Immunization Programs
  • Information Dissemination*
  • Internet*
  • Mass Media*
  • Parents / psychology
  • Patient Safety
  • Protective Factors
  • Public Opinion*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Vaccination* / adverse effects
  • Vaccination* / economics
  • Vaccines / adverse effects
  • Vaccines / therapeutic use*


  • Vaccines