The growing vaccine hesitancy: exploring the influence of the internet

Eur J Public Health. 2018 Oct 1;28(5):934-939. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/cky114.

Abstract

Background: Vaccination coverage is dropping in several countries, including Slovenia. More and more people hesitate or even reject vaccinations. As the influence of the internet grows, the question becomes how to communicate about vaccination to parents in order to prevent this drop in vaccination coverage among children.

Methods: For the first time in Europe, the Situational Theory of Publics (STOP) has been used in the field of vaccination to segment mothers to subpublics, and to prescribe a clearly defined form of communication for each of the segmented groups. In the survey, 1704 mothers participated who gave birth in 2014 and 2015 in Slovenia.

Results: The study showed that mothers react passively to information on vaccination no matter whether they come across it coincidentally or intentionally. Most often, they seek information about vaccination from friends or online. The more concerned they are about the safety of vaccines, the more they search for information about vaccination, and their communication is consequently more active. The mothers that problematize the safety of vaccines more, and are afraid of their adverse events tend to be in favour of alternative options.

Conclusions: Our research demonstrated that the STOP can be applied to the field of vaccination. There is a huge need for intensive professional communication about vaccination on the internet and social media. The improvement of the communicational competences of doctors and healthcare workers is essential to achieve better communication with parents and the media, and needs to be focused on mothers and pregnant women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Communicable Disease Control
  • Communicable Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Slovenia
  • Social Media*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vaccination / psychology*
  • Vaccination / statistics & numerical data
  • Vaccines / therapeutic use*

Substances

  • Vaccines